ICB members may recall recent articles ICB has published to warn against 'scam' publishers who offer advertising space within emergency services or charity publications. ICB was alerted to the issue by certain Practice Licence holders who had themselves been unwittingly targeted.
ICB would advise members to excercise caution and is pleased to publish details of two recent cases in which such publishers have been brought to justice. If you are concerned, please read the Advertising Protection Agency's 10 Dos and Donts
Excel Media Limited (Excel), a company which exploited the "charitable and benevolent nature" of individuals and businesses for the personal benefit of its directors and shareholders has been wound-up by the High Court in Manchester following an investigation by Company Investigations of the Insolvency Service.
The company, based in Liverpool, operated a business of the type that has become known as "Support publishing". In this case, the company cold-called businesses to sell advertising space on a website called "Emergency Service Press" .
The investigation found the company misled advertisers into believing they were supporting the fire services, local authorities or charities. In reality, the company had no affiliation to, or contact with any such organisation. Evidence obtained during the enquiry found that the website claimed:
- It was "supporting our rescue services and armed forces"
- "we will be actively raising funds for leading charities ..through advertising and sponsorship opportunities"
The enquiry also found that some businesses were told that their details would be included in a wall planner which would include advertisements. In fact, only one copy of the wall planner was produced and that copy was sent to the advertiser so it had little or no commercial value. Customers were also told variously that their advert would be included in a magazine, brochure or booklet and, in one case, that the name of his business would be emblazoned on a tee-shirt with entry into a prize raffle. Another was told that his business would be included on 40,000 calendars. None of these were ever produced by the company.
The company took just under £300,000 between March 2010 and June 2011. However, evidence found in the investigation suggest that records are incomplete and that the money could not be fully accounted for.
Alex Deane from Company Investigations in Manchester said:
"Excel Media Limited exploited the goodwill of the businesses it approached and promoted itself as something it was not, selling advertising space which benefited neither the clients nor the emergency services in any way.
"The Insolvency Service carries out a range of investigation and enforcement activities aimed at supporting fair and open markets.
Companies Investigations will pursue companies acting in a dishonest way until we find them and take steps close them down."