The small print in television ads is to become clearer for viewers to read under new standards announced by the regulator.
From March, TV advertisers will be expected to emphasise particularly important qualifying details, ensure the text is clear and can be easily seen against the background and allow viewers enough time to read it, under changes drawn up by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).
A study by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) showed that a majority of people find it difficult to read the small print in TV ads, which can contain important qualifying terms and conditions to an offer. This is more prevalent among older viewers.
Participants in the study said it was difficult to read on-screen text against a moving background, where white text was presented on a white background, and when text was too small, squashed, not on the screen long enough or where there was too much information to read and take it all in.
The use of acronyms, a lot of numerical information or excess sound such as loud music or people shouting also made some ads hard to understand, the research found.
The ASA said the lack of clarity could lead to confusion or disappointment when a deal was not what consumers understood it to be and risked misleading viewers.
The BCAP Code requires that ads must not mislead consumers, must state significant limitations and qualifications to a headline claim, and qualifications must be presented clearly.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Our research has told us that TV viewers can be misled when they struggle to read on-screen text that contains important information.
“It’s vital that any qualifications are presented clearly and I welcome BCAP’s tough new standards to ensure that happens.”
BCAP director Shahriar Coupal said: “As an evidence-based regulator, we welcome the ASA’s research.
“We’ve acted promptly to update our guidance and provide greater clarity on the acceptable presentation of on-screen text in ads, benefiting advertisers and viewers alike.”