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Advertisement and law: can you call yourself ‘the best’?

Advertisement and law: can you call yourself ‘the best’?

Is the slogan ‘The best e-bike is a Stella’ misleading?

The Dutch Advertising Code Committee ruled on the television commercial by Stella Fietsen. In this advertisement, famous Dutch presenter Anita Witzier says the following: ‘Dutch-made high quality electrical bikes. Always a good price. E-bike test centres throughout the Netherlands and customised home delivery. The best e-bike is a Stella.’

In the background, the following words are sung on the melody of ‘the Bostella’: ‘The best e-bike is a Stella.’

Dutch Advertising Code Committee complaints procedure

A complaint was lodged against this advertisement with the Dutch Advertising Code Committee. It was alleged that the advertisement was contrary to the truth, because Stella Fietsen cannot prove this (being the best e-bike) and has never proved this. That, according to the complainant, makes it misleading.

Complaints about ‘the best’

The advertisement was, however, not deemed to be misleading.

According to the Committee, the statement ‘the best e-bike is a Stella’ is not specified in the commercial or explained in a way that suggests that Stella could call its e-bike(s) ‘the best e-bike’ in the context of a comparison with (products of) competitors and/or on the basis of a test result. There is also no reference to competitors, their e-bike(s) or a test. In the view of the Committee, ‘the best e bike is a Stella’ must be regarded as a loose, independent statement that has the character of a concise slogan. It is sufficiently clear for the average consumer that this slogan is not meant to be taken literally but that it is an exaggeration with a subjective character. In view of this recognisable exaggeration, the Committee deemed the commercial not misleading in the meaning put forward by the complainant.

For the above reason, the complaint was rejected.

Exaggeration or not?

In this case, the ruling is different from other cases relating to objectively measurable advertisements in which a claim is made to be the best. That is an important difference. If one distinguishes oneself with a slogan or catchphrase and does not (in)directly refer to objective standards, a ‘the best’ advertisement is usually more likely to be permitted.

By Joost Becker, lawyer specialising in advertising law

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