LONDON — A cyclist pedals furiously in space with only one mission: delivering a sushi order to a hungry astronaut. A man gets a pizza in a field after seemingly tunneling underground to escape from prison, and a woman receives a delivery during a car chase.
Through the unusual series of deliveries, a voice-over says: “Order what you want, where you want, when you want it,” with text at the bottom of the screen warning that “some restrictions apply, obviously…”
But regulators in Britain found the fundamental message of the advertisements for Deliveroo, the London-based food delivery service, misleading, because the service is not available throughout the country.
“The ad must not appear again,” the regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority, said in a statement on Wednesday. It said the commercial had drawn 22 complaints from viewers who said that Deliveroo did not operate in their area.
A spokeswoman for Deliveroo suggested that the ad, which first aired on television in February, was not to be taken literally.
“We know some people will be disappointed to hear that Deliveroo can’t yet deliver to outer space and is still to reach some parts of the U.K.,” the spokeswoman, Emily Kraftman, the company’s director of marketing for Britain and Ireland, said in a statement.
She said that the company had intended for “a playful and humorous” commercial to show that deliveries were possible in “a wide range of places for a range of occasions,” including a home, an office, the park or a friend’s house. Deliveroo is available in about 200 towns and cities in Britain, and is expanding rapidly across the country.
The company tried to make sure the ad was not misleading, Ms. Kraftman said. It worked with Clearcast, a nongovernmental organization that operates the clearance system for television commercials in Britain, before the ad aired. Clearcast suggested the on-screen restriction text.
The Advertising Standards Authority said that the ad was still likely to mislead viewers.
“We considered the very clearly fantastical nature of the settings — for example, in space and a car chase — was likely to lead viewers to interpret the qualification to mean that the restrictions applied to places where it would be ridiculous to expect to be able to access the service, rather than that there were certain areas of the country that were excluded,” the regulator said.
Some social media users echoed this view after the ad first appeared online in January.
“‘Order what you want, where you want’ and last night I tried and was told that you don’t deliver where I live,” Jacques Joubert, a resident of Andover in southwestern England, according to his Facebook profile, commented on Facebook in March.
“Reckon time for an ad change? False advertisement at its finest,” he said.
“I don’t get it,” Kate van Gelder commented on a shorter cut of the ad on YouTube.
“I don’t live on the moon or in the middle of the desert,” she said. “I live down the road from Eastbourne, but you don’t deliver here yet?”
Others were critical of the regulator’s decision to ban an ad that they saw as harmless.
“Misleading claims, like delivering a pizza to space? I thought you could get a pizza in space, no?” Kerr Millar wrote, commenting on a Facebook post by the Advertising Standards Authority announcing its decision.
“You seem proud of these statements, but you are bowing to the minority and setting a terrible example,” he added.
The ad, which has been pulled from television, will also be removed from YouTube.