The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has cleared a radio ad attacking Google’s privacy practices against complaints that it amounted to false advertising.
In the decision announced yesterday, the ASA rejected two complaints about an ad promoting Microsoft’s Outlook email that said it — unlike Google’s Gmail service — doesn’t scan the contents of emails to sell ads.
The radio ad begins with a voice speaking in Pig-latin, followed by a narrator who says “Pig Latin may be hard to understand, but you probably need it if you use Gmail, because Gmail scans every word of your e-mails to sell ads. But Outlook.com doesn’t.”
In its decision, the ASA admits that both companies scan emails for the sake of identifying viruses and spam, but that Microsoft’s ad is specifically referring to scanning emails for ad targeting:
We acknowledged that Outlook.com scanned e-mails for viruses and spam messages, and that this was not referred to in the ad. However, we understood that this was standard practice for e-mail providers and considered that listeners were likely to expect this type of scanning to be carried out as a matter of course. We noted that the ad referred explicitly to Gmail scanning e-mail content for the purposes of targeting ads, and that this reference was immediately followed by the statement “Outlook.com doesn’t”. We considered that listeners were likely to appreciate that this statement was only in relation to scanning for ad targeting, rather than protective scanning, and that the ad did not state or imply that no other forms of scanning were utilised.
Although the radio ad didn’t specifically mention it, the message is the same one Microsoft has been pushing via its “Scroogled” campaign. The ASA didn’t pass judgment on the campaign, but it did find that this specific radio ad doesn’t violate UK rules on misleading advertising.
(Tip via The Guardian.)