Lloyds’ ‘By your side’ complaint could change ad sanctions

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is reported to be investigating Lloyds Bank’s ‘By your side’ ad slogan following a complaint by Keystone Law which is representing TV presenter Noel Edmonds in a dispute with the bank over the actions of a unit of HBOS, bought by Lloyds in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Edmonds says the HBOS bankers, some of whom were subsequently jailed, brought down his business. Lloyds is accused of dragging its feet over the case, being slow to pay compensation among other shortcomings. the ASA’s investigation is said to focus on whether or not the current advertising is misleading and whether Lloyds’ ‘By your side’ claim can be substantiated.

The ad in question (below) has done its work but the line is still being used by agency adam&eveDDB (which handles both Lloyds and Halifax, the former HBOS).

This is a tricky one for the ASA, as it is for advertisers as a whole. While there is no doubt that what became a part of Lloyds was on nobody’s side but its own, the subsequent behaviour of this very large bank – while hardly admirable – is arguably no worse than that of many large businesses, some might say most large businesses.

It’s recently come to light that airlines have been fibbing for years over the length of time their flights take. This helps them to fudge late arrivals and avoid paying compensation. Ryanair has been doing it for years as anyone who’s been penned in a hot, airless room while nothing happens can testify. Then the flight arrives “early.”

Lloyds, as we remarked of its latest effort featuring a veritable herd of black horses thrilling the inhabitants of Dorset, is peddling feel-good nonsense because it doesn’t actually have anything worthwhile to say. But it’s not the first advertiser to do so and it won’t be the last. Think of Facebook’s recent effort outlining all those things it claims to disapprove of.

So what’s to be done?

If a newspaper gets something wrong it has to publish a (fairly) prominent correction. You can’t expect people who complain about ads to make their own in response but the offending advertiser could and maybe should be forced to publish (prominently) the “substantiation” for their claims and, if they erred, an apology.

The threat of such a sanction would at least make them think twice.

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