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Lloyds Bank dodges ad ban following complaint from Noel Edmonds' lawyer

A complaint about Lloyds Bank's black horse TV commercials has been dismissed by the UK ad watchdog. The complaint was made by lawyers representing a group of clients including ex-Deal or No Deal presenter Noel Edmond.

Keystone acts on behalf of Edmonds and other victims of financial fraud committed by a corporate branch of HBOS, prior to its acquisition by Lloyds. It challenged whether an ad that aired earlier this year, which featured the brand's famous mascot alongside the tagline 'By your side for over 250 years', was misleading.

The complaint comes amid an ongoing feud between Edmonds and the bank.

The one-time Noel's House Party host has been highly critical over the institution's handling of a 2008 fraud scandal at its HBOS Reading arm. While Lloyds claims it was unaware of the fraudulent activity before it bought HBOS, Edmonds and others object to the actions Lloyds has taken to address the fallout, which he alleges caused his entertainment business Unique Group to collapse.

The advert that Keystone took issue with was set to an acoustic cover of Fatboy Slim's 'Praise You'. It showed a black horse galloping through the countryside, past a memorial service, a suburban neighbourhood where a mother was caring for her baby and on a beach with children running behind it.

During the spot a voiceover says: 'Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we have been and always will be by your side.' Then, on-screen text read: 'By your side for over 250 years.'

The Advertising Standards Authority said it recognised six people (including two who formerly worked at HBOS) were found guilty of bribery and fraud against business customers between 2002 and 2007, and that because of this the complainant found the tagline ‘By your side’ misleading.

Lloyds disagreed, arguing that 85% of those it identified in a review as being affected by the historic fraud in question had accepted compensation. It also said the claim 'By your side' was intended as a summation of the reliability, accessibility and security the brand provides to customers. The advertiser further noted that the ad had been created for a retail audience, and wasn't aimed at business owners.

The regulator agreed, saying that while the 'By your side' slogan was "advertising puffery" it didn't think viewers would take the claim to "be a commentary on the situation of the victims of the HBOS fraud case, or to think that it was directly connected to their engagement with Lloyds Bank in 2018".

In January, Edmonds revealed he had secured a "seven-figure" sum from specialist litigation funder Therium to bankroll a lawsuit against the company over the decade-old scam.

A ComRes survey, paid for by Therium on behalf of Edmonds, found that consumers held overwhelmingly negative views on Lloyds Banking Group, including the belief it should ditch its 'By your side' mantra. However, subsequent conflicting research from Mesh Experience found that 44% of customers said they'd had a positive experience with Lloyds.