In the ad, a mortgage customer types ‘mortgage broker’ into a search tool and the screen burps, then hurls a vomit-like wave of green substance including a pizza slice with the word Jargon written on it into the woman’s face. The ad ends with a voiceover saying: “Looking for a mortgage without the jargon? It’s either Hell or Habito. Watch the advert here.
Eltham-based managing director of advice firm Money Sage, Tony Joannou first complained to Habito in early February, but dissatisfied with the digital mortgage adviser’s refusal not to run the adverts again, took his complaint to the ASA.
Joannou told the ASA: “It simply can’t be the case that you will allow companies to just smear competitors. Just because we are a small firm, should we not also have the same protection from the ASA?”
The ASA response
The advertising standards regulator said: “We note in this case the ad does not mention an identifiable competitor. We also consider that viewers are likely to understand that the advertiser is describing the overall process of applying for a mortgage as a “hellish,” and they are likely to interpret the ad to mean that Habito’s service is jargon free and cost effective.
“For these reasons we will not be taking further action on this point,” it added.
ASA confirmed to date the ‘mortgage broker’ advert has received 24 complaints on the grounds of offence and two asserting the animated video denigrated its advice firm competition.
However, it said “the cartoon nature of the ad made it sufficiently clear to consumers that it was an unrealistic scenario. The woman at the end of the ad remained unhurt, and we considered that it was not overly graphic.”
It continued: “On this occasion, our view is that the ad is acceptable under the advertising rules.”
But the complaint will remain on file, it said and will be taken into account on its ‘regular proactive intelligence gathering sweeps’ to spot ‘significant or emerging issues.’
Finally, the regulator said: “When assessing complaints in this area, difficult subjective judgements are often required and we aim to strike a balance between allowing an advertiser a platform for their product while ensuring the high standards of the advertising rules are met.”
Habito did not wish to offer further comment.