The ASA ordered that the ad must not appear again after receiving a complaint from Archant Life, which publishes the rival Dorset Magazine, challenging whether the front-page flash ad could be substantiated. Publishing its ruling today, the ASA said Dorset Life claimed the ad was not intended to refer to circulation or sales figures.
The ASA ruling said: "Dorset Life said 'best-read' was the superlative of the adjective 'well read' and, when applied to a magazine, referred to the quality of the magazine, the extent of research, the intellectual level of its content, and an assumption on the part of the writers of the degree of knowledge of its readers.
"It accepted that comparing such characteristics between publications was a subjective judgement, but believed a brief evaluation of their magazine and their nearest competitor would substantiate their claim.
"They said the claim could also be interpreted to mean that their magazine was the best Dorset county magazine to read."
The advertising watchdog dismissed this assessment saying the ad was unclear and likely to be understood to be a reference to their readership or sales figures.
The ASA added: "We also considered that, because of the way the claim was worded, it was unlikely to be interpreted to mean that Dorset Life was the best county magazine to read.
"We noted the sales figures provided by Dorset Life but, because the sales figures for the competitor magazine were estimated, we did not consider them to be sufficiently robust substantiation for a 'best-selling' claim.
"We concluded that, because it implied a 'best-selling' claim, which was not supported, and not Dorset Life's own opinion about the quality of their magazine, it was likely to mislead."
Oliver Luft writes for Press Gazette.