Wonga ‘Mr Sandman’ ad banned by Advertising Standards Authority

ASA says ad by payday lender Wonga gave impression that taking out a high-interest loan could be done lightly

A radio advert by payday lender Wonga featuring rewritten lyrics from the 1950s song Mr Sandman has been banned as "irresponsible" by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The controversial online lender used the song to market its short-term loans, which have an annual interest rate of more than 5,800%.

It rewrote the lyrics to say: "Mr Wonga lend me some dough. Make it the simplest loan that I'll ever know. Give me two choices when I go online. One for how much I want. Two for what length of time. Mr Wonga at wonga.com. You make it easy when the month feels too long. Thanks for everything you've done. Mr Wonga you're number one".

The ASA looked at whether some of the claims in the ad were irresponsible because they gave the impression that taking a high-interest loan could be done lightly. It was particularly concerned that the claim "Mr Wonga you make it easy when the month feels too long" gave the impression that a high-interest short-term loan could routinely be taken between paydays to supplement a monthly income.

The ASA said: "We considered that the claim gave the impression that a high-interest short-term loan was not a financial commitment that required a great deal of consideration and that impression was also compounded by the claims about the simplicity of the application process."

But Wonga said the ad showed that if a customer had visited its website and completed an application, the lender would be able to provide funds "quickly and efficiently".

The ad was investigated after a listener complained that it had been inappropriately scheduled because it was broadcast when it could be heard by children. The ASA rejected this complaint, saying that although the tune was "catchy and upbeat" the content of the lyrics was "unlikely to capture their attention".

Payday lenders have come under fire recently because of their huge interest rates and misleading advertisements which make light of the serious nature of payday loans. Their television adverts have also been criticised for being during daytime, when unemployed and vulerable viewers are most likey to be tuning in.

The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), will take over the regulation of the payday loan industry in April. Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the FCA, said he did not rule out a total ban on advertising, or tighter restrictions on when and where payday lenders could promote their products.


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