November 9, 2009
Starbucks Coffee Company filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against rival coffee chain Costa Coffee. The Seattle-based coffee company accused its UK competitor of running a deceptive advertising campaign.
Back in March 2009, Costa Coffee launched its first national ad campaign which specifically targeted Starbucks. The ads, based on a survey of 334 coffee shop users, claimed "7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer Costa". In one version, used on posters, newspapers and online, the ad went so far as to declare: "Sorry Starbucks, The People Have Voted". It was only in the fine print that Costa pointed out that the “7 out of 10” claim related only to a Costa cappuccino compared to a Starbucks or Cafe Nero cappuccino.
In the ASA complaint, Starbucks alleged that the seven out of 10 claim was misleading because cappuccinos only reflect a small proportion of products sold in its coffee stores. The Times reported that Starbucks also argued the ads “could be understood as a preference claim against all coffee drinks or even more widely as a claim against all aspects of its business including store ambiance."
According to The Times, the ASA has concluded in a draft report that Costa’s campaign "fails to pass muster on a number of points", although the final adjudication would not be known for a number of weeks.