Costa cleared of ‘misleading’ claims by Starbucks

Costa can carry on claiming it is the preferred chain for seven out of 10 coffee lovers after Starbucks failed in its bid to have the poster campaign banned by the advertising watchdog.

The campaign took a direct shot at its rival in some executions, one of which declared ’Sorry Starbucks, the people have voted’. The US coffee chain retaliated by complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over two executions in the campaign: “Starbucks drinkers prefer Costa”; and “7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer Costa”.

Starbucks said the grounds for the complaint was that the ads were misleading, that the methodology used in the survey was flawed and that the small print explaining research was not sufficiently legible.

Now the ASA has cleared Costa’s advertising on all counts in a lengthy ruling, which found that the methodology of the research was sound, the copy legible by people with normal eyesight and the messages were not in breach of regulations around truthfulness.

Jim Slater, marketing director at Costa, says, “Sorry Starbucks, first the people voted and now the ASA has voted. It’s official: seven out of 10 coffee lovers do prefer Costa.”

A Starbucks spokesperson says: “It’s puzzling that the ASA has changed its mind since its initial findings in our favour – especially as Ofcom ruled the campaign was misleading as long ago as September. However, our coffee is Fairtrade and from the best 3 per cent of the crop and the fact we have a record number of customers says more about it than a paid-for survey based on just 57 people.”

The campaign, created by Karmarama, first appeared in March 2009. Costa is no longer using the strategy but continues to retain Karmarama.