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Tiny print is Virgin on the ridiculous

[28 April 2012] The many companies that use tiny print in adverts have had a warning after the advertising watchdog slapped down Virgin Media for misleading the public by running adverts for its superfast broadband that used print so small it was impossible to read.

The national newspaper campaign, which featured world-record sprinter Usain Bolt, promoted the company’s service with the strapline ‘Faster for a fiver’. Small print at the bottom of the advert outlined restrictions and terms that were about 230 words long.

VirginMediaThe Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint that the print was not legible to a ‘normally sighted’ person, meaning the advert was misleading. Virgin said its minimum font size for small print in press ads was between 5.5 and 6 points, so the small print in this ad was well within that range at 5.866 points. It believed this would be clearly visible to a normally sighted person.

Virgin said the industry standard for small print was on average between point size 4 and 4.5, making the small print quite a bit larger than average. It also said it had no control over the printing process of press ads, so could not ensure text was reproduced correctly and that there was no blurring of the words.

The ASA decided that the size of the text, in combination with the low print quality, meant it was not clearly visible to a normally sighted person reading the marketing communication once, from a reasonable distance and at a reasonable speed. The small print contained information that did not appear elsewhere in the ad, such as the price of the line rental and the minimum contract length, which was ‘material’ to consumer understanding of the offer.

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