Yet when people turned to page x for more details, all they found was a paid for advert promoting an offer that was generally available. In other words, you did not need to buy the Star or the Express in order to get the offer.
Twelve people complained to the Advertising Standards Agency. In response, Express newspapers said:
they did not believe anything in the front-page flashes implied there would be a £5-off coupon inside the newspapers. They said the text did not state or imply that there was a coupon but only that it was possible to get £5 off shopping at Tesco when spending £40. They said the flashes made clear that readers needed to go to the page indicated to find out more and the relevant page contained full details, and the terms and conditions, of the promotion. They said that if a coupon had been part of the promotion they would have stated as much, as they had in other coupon promotions. Express Newspapers believed that making clear a coupon was not required would only have encouraged more consumers to purchase the newspapers, because it was an additional benefit compared to coupon offers. They considered the ads did not misleadingly imply there was a coupon inside the newspapers.
As this blog pointed out in April, several people took to various money saving and voucher forums to complain, as they had believed they needed to buy the paper (and some had done so).
The ASA agreed with them, upholding the complaints on the grounds of misleading advertising:
The ASA noted the front-page flashes did not explicitly state there was a coupon inside the newspapers. We considered, however, the overall impression of the ads, in particular the text "£5 OFF SHOPPING AT TESCO WHEN YOU SPEND £40 DETAILS: PAGE XX", was such that consumers would believe there was a discount offer that was available only to readers, for example in the form of a money-off coupon, on the relevant page.
We noted that the relevant pages instead included paid-for advertising by Tesco which described a promotion whereby customers would receive a coupon for £5 off the next week's £40 shop if they spent £40 during the current week, rather than receiving a £5 discount when spending only £40 as the front-page flashes stated.
We understood that promotion was generally available to Tesco customers, rather than only to readers of the Daily Star and Daily Express. We considered the ads misleadingly implied the newspapers included a £5 discount offer that could be redeemed without further significant conditions when spending £40, for example in the form of a coupon, and therefore concluded that they breached the Code.
The ASA can only tell the newspaper not to do it again - not much of a punishment for a long-gone advert - but they also told Express Newspapers:
to ensure future front-page flashes did not misleadingly imply there was a discount offer inside the newspaper that could be redeemed without further significant conditions if that was not the case.
(Hat-tip to Dave)