Ad watchdog bites Genus

8 December 1999

Ad watchdog bites Genus

By Shelley Wright

THE Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against cattle breeding company Genus for publishing a potentially misleading advertisements.

Two complaints about a Genus advert for the bull MOET Martha Franchise were submitted to the ASA in March by international dairy writer Bruce Jobson.

Mr Jobson contended that Genuss claim that the bull was “one of the top 10 bulls in the world – ever” was misleading and inaccurate.

The Genus advert showed a picture of the bulls maternal sister, but normal industry practice is to use pictures of the bulls own daughters or its dam, he said.

Publishing its ruling this week, the ASA upheld the complaints, saying that using a picture of the bulls sister without explanation was likely to mislead readers.

Genus admitted that its claim that Franchise was one of the top 10 bulls was based on its own composite index, rather than the industry accepted indices.

The ASA said that the lack of any explanation of the figures meant that readers were unlikely to understand the “arbitrary, unofficial index”.

It also concluded that Genus could not substantiate its claim for the bulls rank – a decision which was welcomed by Mr Jobson.

“The real winners in this case are farmers who will benefit from higher advertising standards that conform to the ASA guidelines, which state that
adverts should be legal, honest, decent and truthful,” he said.

In its defence, Genus said the advert appeared in the specialist press and was directed at knowledgeable dairy farmers, who were unlikely to be misled.

Responding to the ASA ruling, Steve Amies, Genus Breeding managing director, said the company hadnt intended to mislead any customers:

He claimed there was no need to identify the cow because the advert was aimed at promoting its British breeding programme rather than the bull itself.

“It is unfortunate that, in our enthusiasm to demonstrate the success of our British breeding programme, we upset some industry members,” he said.

The photograph should have been captioned with the animals identity. We recognise the importance of such practices and accept that we were at fault.”

Earlier this year, the National Association of Breeders Services, which represents breeding companies, devised a new advertising code of practice.

Mr Amies said that Genus was a member of NABS and fully intended to abide by the new code.

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