Glasgow-based payday loan broker Stop Go Networks Ltd, which trades as Payday Pig, has been requested by advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to remove certain material from its website.

After a complaint from consumer group Citizens Advice (CitA), the ASA ruled that the cartoon pigs should be removed as it represented inappropriately light-hearted content. It also said that the use of the statement “treat yourself and a loved one to a weekend away and a slap up meal,” was irresponsible for suggesting that it was appropriate to use a payday loan for spending on entertainment.

The ASA rejected Payday Pig’s representations that the use of a pig and several piglets called to mind piggy banks, and was therefore associated with prudent financial management. The watchdog countered by pointing out the context in which the pigs were used, and remarked that one of these pigs had coins coming out of its back. “In light of the fact that the piggy bank appeared to be spilling its contents, we did not consider this connotation to be clear or relevant,” said the ASA in its judgment. Regarding the encouragement to use the loan funds for a holiday and a meal, the broker said it was trying to show that borrowing money could also be associated with “positive experiences and not only to deal with the negative experiences in life”.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of CitA, said: “It is inexcusable to trivialise borrowing by suggesting it can be used for treats and non-essential spending. Taking out a loan is a serious matter and can have devastating consequences if things go wrong. Consumers need to be able to make an informed decision about taking out a loan. It is good to see the ASA taking tough action to protect consumers following our campaigner’s complaint. Banning this advert sends a strong message to payday lenders that irresponsible advertising will not be tolerated.”

She added: “There is still a long way to go before the payday loan industry has cleaned up its act.”

On March 3 2014, the pig image was still being used on the company website, although the claim about using a loan for treats appeared to have been removed.

The payday loan sector would do well to note that this is not the first time that a company has been censured for suggesting in its promotional material that a payday loan can be used for social spending. Other advertisements depicting aliens or other non-human characters , or using songs, have also been deemed to be inappropriate for the serious business of taking out a loan.

Companies should also consider that their own website is every bit as much ‘promotional material’ as a television or newspaper advertisement, and so all the content must be compliant with relevant advertising rules. They should remember also that there are campaigners, such as representatives of CitA, who regularly review payday advertising material looking for breaches of the requirements, and who will not hesitate to report any failings.