Payday lender Nimble has again been accused of exploiting people in financial hardship, with the Advertising Standards Board receiving three separate complaints about Nimble’s advertising in January.
While Nimble chose to pull a television commercial in January after it was accused of promoting its short-term loans as a means to pay utility bills, the advertising watchdog has dismissed the latest complaints against the business.
Two of the complaints relate to a Nimble television commercial featuring a woman who is concerned she will not be able to pay her phone bill because she has been taking too many selfies. The Nimble Bunny appears and suggests she get a loan from Nimble.
The other complaint is about a Nimble television commercial featuring a couple hosting an extravagant first birthday party for their son. The couple say they cannot afford to pay the entertainer they have hired for the party because they spent their money on a ‘babychino’ machine. The Nimble Bunny appears and suggests they get a short-term loan.
One complainant accused Nimble of “encouraging people who are already likely to be in a poor financial situation to make irresponsible financial decisions”, while another said the message of the selfie ad is “just the same as gambling”.
“At least they put the disclaimer at the end of their ads,” the complainant said.
But the Advertising Standards Board ruled in each occasion that Nimble had not breached Section 2 of the Advertising Code of Conduct, which relates to “health and safety within prevailing community standards”.
SmartCompany contacted Nimble and was referred to the statement the company provided to the Ad Standards Board in response to the three complaints. Nimble said it takes the Advertiser Code of Ethics seriously.
“We carefully review and consider the contents of our advertising before it is broadcast and we take viewer complaints seriously,” Nimble said in the statement.
“We are concerned that a number of viewers were offended by out TVCs. However, we respectfully submit that none of the TVCs mentioned in those complaints has breached Section 2 of the Code.”
While this is not the first time Nimble has come under fire for its advertising strategy, the company told the Ad Standards Board its TV ads are “clearly intended to be humorous and generic in nature”.
“In order to raise awareness of the services we offer in an engaging way, they contain slightly exaggerated versions of everyday scenarios where consumers may find themselves short of money,” Nimble said.
“Our TVCs are not intended to be taken literally and have regard to prevailing community standards. We are confident that they are understood as being light-hearted by audiences, and that they do not encourage irresponsible financial behaviour.”
Marketing expert Michelle Gamble, from Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany it appears the complaints are directed at Nimble’s business model, rather than the content of its advertisements.
“Nimble has been very clever when branding themselves, creating a very friendly image that almost goes against the traditional idea of these businesses as loan sharks,” Gamble says.
“They are not offensive ads.”
But Gamble says there is little the Advertising Standards Board can do if individuals decide to use the complaint process to criticise a company’s activities, apart from providing clear guidelines as to what constitutes offensive advertising.
“These services exist because people use them,” Gamble says.
“If you have a real issue with the type of business, there are probably better ways to go about it than complaining to the Advertising Standards Board.”