Advertising Standards Authority rules against misleading “Back Heathrow” ad claiming 60% support for runway

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert from “Back Heathrow” claiming that most local people back Heathrow expansion. “Back Heathrow” is a lobby group, funded through Heathrow with the aim of pushing for the 3rd runway. Back Heathrow ran a regional press ad headlined “Rallying for the runway” with the line “Don’t believe the hype. Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion.”  They claimed from polls there was 60% support.  The ASA says the claim was misleading, and the 60% figure had only been massaged up from 50% to that level by omitting the 15% who did not express an opinion. The ASA considered most consumers were likely to understand it to mean that a clear majority of those surveyed in the poll (the original sample) were in support of expansion. They ruled that removing the 15% was “not a suitable methodology by which to draw such a conclusion, and was misleading. The ad must not appear again in its current form, and “Back Heathrow” must not repeat these claims ” unless it held robust substantiation for them.”  This is a blow to “Back Heathrow,” the strategy of which has been to try to convince decision-makers that a majority of local people back a 3rd runway.  That claim looks flimsy. 
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Advertising Standards Authority bans Back Heathrow advert over its claim most local people back Heathrow expansion

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20.4.2016 (Hacan press release)

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert from Back Heathrow claiming that most local people back expansion at the airport. 

The lobby group, which was set up to push for a third runway and which receives funding from Heathrow Airport, was criticised for failing to provide polling data to back up its claim.  Back Heathrow ran a regional press ad headlined “Rallying for the runway” which included the line “Don’t believe the hype. Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion.”

The Advertising Standards Authority received five complaints that said the claim that the group had widespread local support was misleading.

Back Heathrow said in a footnote to the ad that the latest independent polling showed 60% of local residents had “expressed an opinion in support of expansion”.  The ASA found that to get to the statement of 60% in support, the Back Heathrow campaign had excluded 15% of those surveyed on the grounds they had not expressed any opinion, creating their own analysis of just for/against.

“Given that a significant number of respondents, who had expressed an opinion albeit a neutral one, had been excluded from the sample, we considered that this was not a suitable methodology by which to draw such a conclusion,” ruled the ASA. “We considered that the evidence held back by Back Heathrow demonstrated that only 50% of all those polled were in support of expansion.”

The ASA said that therefore Back Heathrow did not substantiate its claim that “most” people living in communities near Heathrow airports supported its expansion.  “Consequently, the ad breached the [advertising] code,” the ASA ruled. “We told Back Heathrow not to repeat the claims … unless it held robust substantiation for them.”

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the campaign group which opposes Heathrow expansion, said: “This ruling is a real blow to Back Heathrow as a cornerstone of its strategy has been to try to convince decision-makers that a majority of local people back a third runway.  These claims are now starting to unravel.”

ENDS

For further information:  John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

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Heathrow ad lands in trouble for holding back polling data

Advertising Standards Authority bans campaign group’s advert that said most communities support expansion after finding it had held back polling data

By Mark Sweney @marksweney (Guardian)
20 April 2016

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A group pushing for a third runway at Heathrow has had an ad claiming the support of most local residents banned after the advertising watchdog found it had held back polling data.

Back Heathrow ran a regional press ad headlined “Rallying for the runway” which ran with the line “Don’t believe the hype. Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion.”

The Advertising Standards Authority received five complaints that said the claim that the group had widespread local support was misleading.

Back Heathrow said that in light of another ASA ruling against a similar campaign it had run, which was banned, the group had made sure the survey of residents had come from constituencies the watchdog deemed “local to Heathrow”.

Within the 12 constituencies polled, 50% supported the expansion compared to 33% who did not.

Back Heathrow also said that it added a footnote to the ad which stated that the latest independent polling showed 60% of local residents had “expressed an opinion in support of expansion”.

The ASA found that to get to the statement of 60% in support, the Back Heathrow campaign had excluded 15% of those surveyed on the grounds they had not expressed any opinion, creating their own analysis of just for/against.

“Given that a significant number of respondents, who had expressed an opinion albeit a neutral one, had been excluded from the sample, we considered that this was not a suitable methodology by which to draw such a conclusion,” ruled the ASA. “We considered that the evidence held back by Back Heathrow demonstrated that only 50% of all those polled were in support of expansion.”

The ASA said that therefore Back Heathrow did not substantiate its claim that “most” people living in communities near Heathrow airport supported its expansion.

“Consequently, the ad breached the [advertising] code,” the ASA ruled. “We told Back Heathrow not to repeat the claims … unless it held robust substantiation for them.”

Groups such as Back Heathrow say they represent local residents who support a third runway at the site, however anti-expansion campaigners and Gatwick, which is competing to get its own new runway, have claimed the groups are a front for the airport’s own campaigns.

The battle between Heathrow and Gatwick over where to build a new runway to meet rocketing demand in and around London has become politically toxic with many residents and local politicians near both sites opposed to expansion. The government has repeatedly put off making a decision, and now says an answer won’t be given until this summer at the earliest.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/apr/20/heathrow-ad-lands-in-trouble-for-holding-back-polling-data

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ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY UPHOLD TEDDINGTON ACTION GROUP’S COMPLAINT ABOUT MISLEADING “BACK HEATHROW” ADVERT

20..4.2016 (TAG – Teddington Action Group press release)

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints made by members of Teddington Action Group about a Back Heathrow advert claiming that “Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion”.

The decision follows a similar ruling by the ASA in September 2015 banning a pro-expansion advert from Heathrow Airport Ltd which claimed “Those around us are behind us”.  In both cases, the ASA concluded that the claims could not be substantiated and were misleading.

Back Heathrow, which claims itself to be “a group of residents, businesses and community groups”, is in fact a lobby group, set up and funded by Heathrow Airport so as to give the impression of widespread local support for an extra runway. It is actually run by communications professionals, and headed by industry insider, Rob Gray, who previously worked for the Aviation Foundation to promote the interests of aviation to the UK.

In its ruling, the ASA found that Back Heathrow had excluded 15% of respondents who had responded to a poll as “neither in support nor against”, so as to increase the percentage of residents they could claim supported expansion. The ASA concluded that this was not a suitable methodology from which to draw the conclusion that “most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion”.

Paul McGuinness, spokesman for Teddington Action Group said:

“We were expecting this ruling by the ASA, which again highlights the underhand tactics to which Heathrow Airport will readily resort, in their bid for a third runway.  It was simply a question of “here they go again”. Back Heathrow itself, right from the start, has sought to mislead the public by claiming to represent communities when it is funded by Heathrow Airport.  Heathrow is situated amongst some of the UK’s most densely populated residential areas, and excepting the vocal few who have a direct vested interest in the airport, the majority oppose the additional noise and air pollution that a third runway would bring”.

For further information, contact Paul McGuinness on 07958 589894.

  1. Back Heathrow’s website is backheathrow.org
  2. Teddington Action Group is a genuine community group representing residents living in Teddington and the surrounding areas including Twickenham, Strawberry Hill and Hampton Hill. teddingtonactiongroup.com

 

The Advertising Standards Authority website says:

https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2016/4/Back-Heathrow/SHP_ADJ_315946.aspx#.Vxc9E_krLIW

ASA Ruling on Back Heathrow

Back Heathrow t/a Back Heathrow

Barley Mow Centre
10 Barley Mow Passge
Chiswick
W4 4PH

Date:

20 April 2016

Media:

Regional press

Sector:

Holidays and travel

Number of complaints:

5

Agency:

None

Complaint Ref:

A15-315946

Ad

A regional press ad for Back Heathrow, a group in support of proposed Heathrow airport expansion, which appeared on 12 and 16 October 2015, was headlined “Rallying for the runway”. Further text stated “Don’t believe the hype. Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion. Find out more [website address]. The ad included a footnote which stated “The latest independent polling shows 60% of local residents, expressing an opinion support expansion. The research, the first since the Airports Commission made a unanimous recommendation that Heathrow should expand, highlights a strong level of support in the constituencies surveyed. The polling organisation Populus interviewed 12,004 residents from Spelthorne, Richmond Park, Brentford & Isleworth, Feltham & Heston, Windsor, Ealing North, Ealing Southall, Uxbridge & South Ruislip, Slough, Hayes & Harlington, Beaconsfield”.

Issue

Five complainants challenged whether the claim “Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion” was misleading and could be substantiated.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

Back Heathrow referred to a previous ASA ruling about another Heathrow pro-expansion ad which made the claim “Those around us are behind us” together with a footnote that stated “Populus interviewed at least 1000 adult residents (18+) in ten constituencies local to Heathrow airport …”. The ASA had noted that the advertiser had identified the ten constituencies described in the ad as “local to Heathrow airport” as those: who were most impacted by Heathrow airport in terms of noise; were most vocal about its operations, or who had MPs strongly opposed to expansion.

However, the ASA concluded that in the absence of any qualification to make clear the basis on which those ten constituencies had been selected, that particular ad created the impression that the constituencies were those which were closest in terms of proximity to the airport. Because the advertiser did not hold evidence to show that individuals living in the ten constituencies closest to Heathrow Airport, in terms of proximity, were in favour of expansion, the ASA concluded that claim did not comply with the Code.

Back Heathrow said that in light of that ruling, they had ensured that their survey included those constituencies which the ASA considered to be “local to Heathrow”. As such, they were satisfied that their claim “most people living in communities near Heathrow” was compliant with the Code.

Back Heathrow said the claim “Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion” was supported by a poll commissioned by Heathrow Airport and conducted by Populus between 29 July and 20 August 2015. Populus had polled a total of 12,004 residents in 12 constituencies, including those identified in the footnote of the ad. However, they said that the name of one constituency, Twickenham, had been omitted from the ad’s footnote in error. Notwithstanding its omission from the ad, they confirmed residents in that constituency had been polled and their views had been taken into account.

Back Heathrow believed the term “most” could be interpreted to mean either a plurality (i.e. with at least one more than any other alternative) or a majority (i.e. more than 50%). They noted that the poll showed that of the residents within the 12 constituencies polled, 50% supported the expansion of Heathrow compared to 33% who did not. They also noted that had they relied on the 10 constituencies identified in the previous case as being “local to Heathrow”, their survey showed that 53% of residents were pro-expansion which they believed was a majority, and therefore, justified their use of “most”.

Back Heathrow said further that the statement in the footnote “The latest independent polling shows 60% of local residents, expressing an opinion support expansion” made clear that the 60% figure was based only on those polled who expressed an opinion, which they deemed to be either in support of or opposition to expansion. That particular figure excluded those who had expressed no specific opinion, responding as “neither in support nor against.” To support the statement, they calculated the percentage of those in support of expansion from the residents in each of the constituencies who had expressed a positive opinion and calculated the average percentage in favour of expansion. They believed that methodology showed that 60% of polled residents, who had expressed an opinion either way, had expressed support for expansion. Similarly, they said that had they applied the same calculations to the constituencies that the ASA had previously identified as “local to Heathrow”, the survey showed that 64% of residents were pro-expansion.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA noted that headline claim stated “Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion”, which we considered most consumers were likely to understand to mean that a clear majority of those surveyed in the poll (the original sample) were in support of expansion.

That claim was accompanied by a footnote which identified clearly the constituencies that had been polled, which included, but was not limited to, the constituencies in closest proximity to Heathrow. We considered that footnote clarified the headline claim and therefore, it was likely to lead consumers to understand that those were the constituencies polled and the ones which Back Heathrow had identified as “communities living near Heathrow Airport”. While the name of one constituency had been omitted from the ad in error, we understood that nevertheless, its responses had been included in the poll and any subsequent conclusions drawn from the raw data.

The footnote stated “The latest independent polling shows 60% of local residents, expressing an opinion support expansion”. We therefore considered consumers were likely to interpret the claim “most people” in that context and therefore, they would understand it to mean that “most” referred to that 60%. However, we understood from Back Heathrow that the 60% figure referred only to those residents who had expressed an opinion either in support of or against expansion (for/against sample). Although we acknowledged that some residents expressed a neutral opinion (neither for nor against expansion), we considered nevertheless that they had still expressed an opinion. Because of that and in the absence of further clarification as to which residents had been regarded as “expressing an opinion”, we considered the statement “… 60% of local residents, expressing an opinion support expansion…” was unlikely to be clear to readers. We considered they were likely to interpret it as referring to all respondents except those who said “don’t know”, rather than referring only to those who expressed a clear preference one way or the other.

We assessed the data in the poll provided. We noted that it did not report any data from the for/against sample selected by Back Heathrow and upon which they relied to support the 60% figure stated in the footnote. Rather, it reported only the results of the original sample which showed that 50% of all residents polled expressed a pro-expansion opinion. To support the 60% statement, Back Heathrow had excluded 15% of the original sample on the grounds that they had not expressed an opinion in support of or in opposition to expansion and created a new sample group which consisted of only “pro” and “against” responses. They had then calculated the average of the total of all “pro” responses from that sample group to conclude that “… 60% of those expressing an opinion support expansion”. Given that a significant number of respondents, who had expressed an opinion albeit a neutral one, had been excluded from the sample, we considered that this was not a suitable methodology by which to draw such a conclusion.

We considered the evidence held by Back Heathrow demonstrated only that 50% of all those polled were in support of expansion. Therefore, we concluded it did not substantiate their claim that “most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion” which was likely to be understood in the context of the statement “… 60% of local residents expressing an opinion support expansion”. Consequently, the ad breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1(Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Back Heathrow not to repeat the claims “Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion” and “The latest independent polling shows 60% of local residents, expressing an opinion support expansion” unless it held robust substantiation for them.

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Earlier:

Advertising Standards Authority finds Heathrow advert about increased trade breaches their code and is ‘misleading’

Edit this entry.

In October 2014 about 13 people send in official complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, on claims being made by Heathrow in its adverts. The ASA looked at 7 different complaints, and considered that 6 passed their standards. However, on the claim by Heathrow in its ads headed:”Expand Heathrow and its’s the economy that takes off” the statement “Direct flights to long-haul destinations build twenty times more trade with them than indirect flights” was found to breach the ASA code. The ASA say the claim was not adequately substantiated and that the ad therefore breached the Code, both by being misleading and by not having proper substantiation. The ASA say the advert “must not appear again in its current form.” They have told Heathrow “to ensure that they held robust substantiation for absolute claims made in their future advertising.”  The ASA ruling also says the claim was presented as objective facts rather than an educated assumption and that Heathrow’s own report “One Hub or None”itself cautioned that direct flights would not automatically lead to more trade and that multiple factors could influence the amount of bilateral trade.  

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/02/advertising-standards-authority-finds-heathrow-advert-about-increased-trade-breaches-their-code-and-is-misleading/
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and

Advertising Standards Agency rules Heathrow ads claiming “Those living around us are behind us” are misleading

Edit this entry.

Heathrow Airport has been told by the ASA that its adverts claiming that “Those living around us are behind us”.  Eight people had challenged whether the adverts were misleading and if they could be substantiated.  The ASA concluded that the claim exaggerated the level of support for expansion, had not been substantiated and was misleading. They noted that the claims “Those living around us are behind us” and “Locals support it” were not qualified.  The ASA considered that most readers would interpret the claims to mean that a clear majority of those living in close proximity to Heathrow Airport supported expansion. The evidence provided, however, showed that only 50% of those surveyed from ten constituencies close to the airport supported expansion. The ASA say the ads must not appear in their current form again. They told Heathrow Airport Ltd to ensure they held sufficient evidence to substantiate their objective marketing claims in future, and to ensure their claims were adequately qualified, without contradiction. John Stewart, chair of HACAN, said: “This judgement is not good news for Heathrow. It undermines a key plank of their campaign that they have strong local support for a third runway.” The ASA ruled against other Heathrow ads in February 2015.   

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2015/09/advertising-standards-agency-rules-heathrow-ads-claiming-those-living-around-us-are-behind-us-are-misleading/

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And another set of adverts was considered by the ASA,but they did not rule against them:

Does Heathrow advert implying a small girl needs a 3rd runway, for her future, meet Advertising Standards?

The ASA now say:

“….the investigation had been delayed due to some new points being raised by additional complainants.  Since then another couple of issues have been added to the investigation, meaning that we have had to again engage in further discussion with the advertiser.

“However, we have now received Heathrow’s response on all points, including the newest ones.  We are currently in the process of drawing up the documents for the next stage of the case, and hope that we may be able to send these out [to those who submitted complaints] by the end of the month.”

…. and they say “… the issues around advertising claims of this nature are complex and our investigation will necessarily take some time”   …. and they are working to address the concerns of the many people who complained as promptly as they are able.

The Heathrow advert

22.9.2014

Earlier this week, Heathrow put out full page advertisements for their 3rd runway. This is part of an on-going, and expensive media campaign. However, they may have mis-judged the tone of this one. It features a small girl, aged about 5, with her hand up – and the text makes out that her future well being will depend upon ….. guess what?? …. a new Heathrow runway. The advert says the 3rd runway will deliver “… at least£100 billion of economic benefits [no timescale given] the length and breadth of the country.  …. So, even if our little girl never leaves home, she’ll still feel the benefit.”  People may have been inspired to write to the Advertising Standards Authority, to complain about this rather dubious text, with unsubstantiated claims, making use of a small child, to try to make a PR point. One such letter to the ASA has been copied to AirportWatch, in which the writer clearly puts the case that what this child needs is a stable climate for her future, not accelerating carbon emissions. The writer believes the advert to be misleading, and asks the ASA to have it withdrawn. There is now an Avaaz petition to the ASA on this ad.

 

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