Medibank ad resembling news content breached code of ethics, says watchdog

A Medibank TV ad, in which a Medibank ‘reporter’ performed a news-style report, breached the AANA code of ethics according to Ad Standards.

A complaint about the ad claimed it was misleading due to the placement of the Seven logo, and therefore an attempt to “masquerade” as a Seven News report.

The ad featured in a Seven News commercial break, with the reporter holding a Medibank branded microphone. A Seven News ticker was displayed at the bottom of the screen, promoting upcoming news reports. The complaint said that these visual features were used to “trick viewers”. The ad was followed by an additional 30 second Medibank commercial.

A similar version of the ad which was posted to Twitter

Medibank responded to the complaints by stating that “the sponsored nature of the content was readily apparent to the viewers”, but Ad Standards disagreed.

“The panel considered that the format of this advertisement was much longer than typical television commercials and was highly stylized to look like a news segment,” Ad Standards said in its decision, adding that using the theme of anxiety in the report-style segment “resembled content likely to be on the news”.

With regards to the onscreen Seven News ticker, the panel concluded that “throughout most of the advertisement the Seven News logo is featured more prominently than the Medibank logo, and therefore the advertisement more closely resembled content from Seven News than advertising material for Medibank.”

Ad Standards acknowledged that a Medibank watermark was present, but that it suggested the piece was a sponsored news segment.

“The use of the smaller Medibank logo and the large, capitalized ‘HEALTH UPDATE’ would suggest that this was a sponsored news segment, similar to sponsored sports and weather segments on some news programs,” the decision read.

The panel decided that the ad breached section 2.7 of the code, which stipulates that advertising must be “clearly distinguishable”.

Medibank responded to the finding by stating that it made changes to the ad as soon as it received a complaint and before Ad Standards made its ruling.

“The ‘Medibank Health Update’ was modified so that a ‘This is a paid advertisement’ disclaimer is clearly shown over the opening and closing billboards of the advertisement. And the Seven Network modified the ticker that is inserted in a live broadcast setting, so that reference is made to reports coming up ‘After the Break’, rather than ‘Up Next’.

“Further to the above changes, [the] ‘Medibank Health Update’ watermark that is shown in the top right corner will now also be increased in size.”

Medibank issued a further statement to Mumbrella, which read: “We take every complaint seriously.  When a viewer raised some concerns about the Medibank Health Updates, we immediately made proactive changes including adding [a] ‘This is a paid advertisement’ disclaimer to the update.

“The Medibank Health Updates provide Australians with health information to help them improve their quality of life.  They contain well respected medical experts providing general health and wellbeing advice.

“Medibank and the Seven Network believe the updates have always been distinguishable as paid Medibank content.

“Medibank takes approval by Commercials Advice (CAD) seriously and was advised by the Seven Network we were adhering to all standards.”


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