How can creative disruption shape the future?

View Schedule

Deliveroo on ASA's naughty list with third most complained about ad of 2019

As the year nears its end, Deliveroo has made a late entry for the Advertising Standard’s Authority (ASA) most complained about ads of 2019. Coming in at number three, its 'magic bag' TV ad prompted 300 people to get in touch with the ad watchdog down to concerns over its 'misleading' content.

The number one most complained about ad of 2019 is GoCompare's TV spot that saw its flamboyant leading man Gio Compario get behind the wheel. Droga5's first work since it picked up the account, the ad has so far brought in a whopping 336 complaints from concerned viewers who felt it trivialized car crashes. Despite the level of discontent, the ASA still contends that it will not take further action.

Cheltenham Fireworks received the second most complaints for a poster that featured a picture of a dog wearing ear defenders. 317 people complained that the ad made light of the distress caused to some animals by fireworks. The advertiser withdrew the ad so no further action was required.

Deliveroo is, therefore, the most complained about ad that actually received an ad ban from the ASA. And what makes it particularly interesting is that it received unusually high numbers for a spot that was misleading, rather than purely provocative.

Created its global creative agency McCann, the TV spot sees a woman welcoming Deliveroo delivery at her front door, before handing out meals from various different takeaway joints. Imbued with special powers like Mary Poppin’s endless bag, the Deliveroo bag just keeps on delivering - ’Chinese, KFC, Wagamama, Greek salad, Pizza Express, Burger King, Five Guys, Doner, Buon Giorno Italiano, prawn crackers…’ she calls out as she hands over the goods to glad empty-stomachs. After handing out the final delivery, our leading lady dives headfirst into the bag.

The on-screen text stated ‘Geographical restrictions apply. Separate orders must be made for each restaurant’ next to the logos of various different food brands including, Wagamama, Zizzi, KFC, Five Guys, Pho, Greggs, Yo!, Fridays, Tortilla, Wahaca, Papa John's, Pret and Taco Bell appeared across the screen.

Although nothing glaringly obvious, anyone who has ever ordered from Deliveroo before would spot one simple issue - you can’t order from various different restaurants in one order. Rather, you need to make a separate order for each, incurring a delivery fee each time.

Since launching, the spot gave rise to 300 complaints, that challenged whether the TV spot was misleading.

In its defense, Deliveroo claimed that the unusual action that unfolds during the ad in the house - including the ‘magic bag’ and endless guests - makes it clear that this is not your typical household. It said this was reinforced when the lady jumps into the Deliveroo bag and disappears.

It claimed the magic bag motif draws on the classic pulling-a-rabbit-from-a-hat magic trick, which further underscored the whimsical and fantastical nature of the scene.

To prevent the ad from being banned, Deliveroo offered to add disclaimers to the existing text to ensure their intended message was clear to viewers, and so they wouldn’t be in the dark in regards to delivery charges.

While the ASA acknowledged that the TV ad did not depict a realistic household, Deliver chose the scenario to demonstrate one of the real-world benefits of its service - namely the wide variety of restaurants from which customers can order food.

While the ad showed an unrealistic depiction of a family night in, it said it considered the domestic setting and the explicit reference to 'All your family favourites, now on Deliveroo' strongly implied families or other groups who intended to eat together.

And while it acknowledged Deliveroo’s willingness to include additional on-screen text, it felt this would sufficiently alter the overall impression.

For this reason, it told Deliveroo that it must not broadcast it again in its current form.

This is the second time this year that Deliveroo has been rapped by the ASA. Back in September it got in trouble over a misleading broadcast in which it implied it could deliver food orders anywhere in the UK.

Applying similar exaggerated vibes, the TV ad depicted Deliver riders venturing off the beaten track to hand over food orders in person’ including prison and the vacuum of outer space.

Two ad bans in a year isn’t a good look for McCann, which picked up the global-unified creative account in December of last year.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.