In early November the Transport for London (TfL) removed Free Balochistan adverts from London
black cabs after pressure from the Pakistani government.
The World Baloch Organisation, which advocates for rights of the ethnic Balochs who live in the Balochistan regions straddling Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, launched its campaign on London's black cabs to highlight the war crimes and
human rights abuses of the Islamabad government. The #FreeBalochistan adverts carry slogans saying Stop enforced disappearances and Save the Baloch people
The British High Commissioner in Islamabad was summoned to appear before the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua, on Friday over the adverts which they said directly attack its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Unsurprisingly TfL were quick to get the adverts off their property and to apologise for the offence, and this seems to have done the trick for them.
The UK advert censors at ASA have also got caught up in international complaints resulting from the TfL campaign particularly as the adverts have now appeared more widely on advertising spaces that are not related to TfL.
Now clearly ASA don't want to get involved in the political content of campaign advertising so their rules are more about offence and honest claims about products. So ASA responded to complaints noting that the adverts did not breach their
deliberately apolitical advertising rules. Unfortunately the subtlety of not breaking rules has been interpreted more as approving the adverts. As explained in an
article from thehindu.com
The High Commission of Pakistan and a member of the public had referred the advert to the ASA, arguing the slogan Free Balochistan was irresponsible and offensive to the Pakistani diaspora and an attack on the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of Pakistan.
In a letter to the World Baloch Organisation, which is running the campaign in London, ASA confirmed that it would not pursue the matter any further as there did not appear to be a breach of the code. The advertiser had a right to express
their views, despite the issue of Baloch independence being a politically sensitive issue. The ASA's role was to assess what appeared within the ads, rather than making a broader judgment about the intent of the ad, or the political cause,
The ASA Council considered that the tagline '#FreeBalochistan' was an invitation to find out more about a particular political campaign itself, and the ad itself did not make any specific claim that threatened the territorial integrity or
sovereignty of Pakistan... the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to members of the public in general.
#FreeBalochistan campaigners were clearly delighted and hailed the decision by ASA to allow a billboard campaign by the organisation to remain in place. Bhawal Mengal, the WBO's London spokesperson said:
Justice has prevailed. The ASA has affirmed that our campaign is within the U.K.'s rules and regulations. Moreover it has proved that Pakistan's narrative to malign our campaign is baseless and deceitful.
Of course the Pakistan government is not so delighted: The Pakistan High Commission says it's reviewing the ASA's decision and
article from thenews.com.pk
reports a source sating that Pakistan High Commission will now launch legal action against the ASA.
A spokesman for the Pakistan High Commission said that the ASA's response has been received which is being reviewed. The spokesman said that further course of action will be announced soon. It is an ongoing matter and we are in touch with
A flyer for ScrewCaps UK, a manufacturer of fastener cover caps, was seen on 15 August 2017. The image featured a naked woman
photographed from the back, with the shot slightly angled from below, wearing ski boots, gloves and skis, and carrying ski poles. Red text stating COVER UP partially obscured her bottom.
A complainant, who received the flyer with an order which had been made, challenged whether the ad was offensive and degrading to women.
Pro-Dec Products Ltd t/a ScrewCaps UK said they made a niche product which, whilst useful and practical, was not generally seen as aspirational or covetable. Therefore, to make their unsexy product more noticeable, and in keeping with the
product's use in covering other elements, the concept behind their ad was to refer to covering up other things that would not be normally seen.
They said that in the nine years they had been trading in the UK, they had distributed in excess of 20,000 such brochures, using a variety of models in different circumstances around the same theme of covering up. They had received 14 complaints
directly, in response to the brochures they had produced. They added that the ad in question had been received by 7,000 people and they estimated, due to the multiplier effect, that 16,000 people would have seen the ad. They had ensured that any
customers who had complained directly to them would not receive any further brochures.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
Although the ASA acknowledged that the use of a naked person was intended to create a visual pun linked to the concept of covering up and that some readers might appreciate that the use of such an image was intended to be comical in tone, we
considered that the image of a naked woman in ski boots and carrying ski poles bore no relevance to the product being advertised, and that a link between the image of a naked woman on a ski slope and the product -- a cover cap -- was not one that
people would normally make.
Although a slogan appeared over her bottom, we considered it would be clear to people that the woman was fully nude, bar her ski boots and gloves. We noted she had her back slightly arched to emphasize her bottom, and her breast was slightly
visible from the side. We considered that her nudity was further highlighted as it appeared in the context of a ski scene, where people would ordinarily be warmly dressed. We therefore considered the female nudity was gratuitous and the pose and
styling was provocative. On that basis, we considered the image could be seen to be sexually suggestive and degrading to women.
We acknowledged that ScrewCaps UK operated a business-to-business model and that this was generally the context in which their advertising would be seen. Although we considered it was therefore unlikely that children would see the ad, we
considered that the image still had the potential to be seen by many people who were likely to find it offensive.
Because of the nudity and styling, as well as the woman's pose, we concluded the image was degrading to women and likely to cause serious offence.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told ScrewCaps UK not to use similarly sexually suggestive images in their advertising in future.
An ad for BOCA organic toothpastes was seen in the Raconteur supplement which was included in the Times newspaper on 28
July 2017. The ad featured a black and white image of the body of a naked woman, who was wearing only a pair of strappy heels. The woman in the image was shown reclining in a chair and facing a window, with one leg placed on top of a table by the
window and the other on the ground. Her buttocks and her groin area were obscured by the arm of the chair. The woman was also shown to be holding a tube of the product.
Two complainants, who believed that the ad objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA noted that the image in the ad showed only parts of the model's body, including the lower parts of her breasts, her stomach, and her bare legs. We noted that her buttocks and groin area had been obscured by the arm of the chair, and her
head, the top parts of the arms and torso, including her nipples, were out of the frame and therefore were not visible. We noted BOCA's comments that the model in the ad was not naked and acknowledged that the ad did not include explicit nudity.
However, we considered that the way in which the model was depicted gave the impression that the model was fully nude.
We considered that the pose of the model, particularly given that she was shown as reclining with her parted legs facing an open window, was sexually provocative, giving the ad a voyeuristic feel. Furthermore, because the model's face was not
shown, we considered that the visible parts of her torso, including her lower portion of her breasts, and the lower half of her body became the visual emphasis of the ad, which was likely to draw readers' attention. We also considered that the
nudity and the pose of the model, and the provocative nature of the ad, bore no relevance to the product. Because the ad placed visual emphasis on the model's body in a sexualised manner and such nudity was unrelated to the product, we considered
that the ad objectified the model depicted and invited readers to view her body as a sexual object. For those reason, we considered that the ad objectified women and concluded that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told BOCA to ensure that future advertising did not cause widespread or serious offence by objectifying women.
a. An email included the claim Fancy a pair? and was accompanied by an image of three women wearing just knickers, with one woman's breasts exposed, the second covering her chest with her arm with her nipple exposed and the third posed in front
of the others holding a pair of shoes over her chest. Above the image was the company tag line Bucking good shoes.
b. The company's own website www.goodwinsmith.co.uk, included the claim Fancy a pair? and was accompanied by an image of two women who were topless, wearing only knickers and covering their breasts with shoes.
c. A Facebook post seen on their own page included the text Watch the explicit campaign video on Youtube now accompanied by an image of three woman wearing just knickers, two women covered their breasts with shoes and the third covered her
breasts with her arm.
d. A Facebook post seen on their own page included the text Watch the full [no under 18] version on Youtube now and featured the not suitable for under 18s emoji. Underneath was a still image of a video that featured a woman wearing black
underwear on her knees in front of a fully clothed man who was holding a plastic machine which released paper money notes in quick succession at her face.
e. An email titled WE DID WARN YOU, which included the not suitable for under 18s emoji, showed an image of three women and three men. One of the women was topless and wore a saxophone around her neck. A second woman wore just a pair of
knickers, high heels and a foam finger. She was pressed against a man and was slightly bent over showing her bare buttocks. The three men were fully clothed. Above the image was the company tag line Bucking good shoes.
f. A Youtube video appearing on Goodwin Smith's channel, titled FANCY A PAIR? (EXPLICIT VERSION) AW17. Before the video played, text appeared which stated Sign in to confirm your age. This video may be inappropriate for some users. The video
contained three women and three men. For the duration of the video, the men remained fully clothed. In some scenes, the three women wore black lingerie and in others they were topless, wearing nude thongs and high heels. Throughout the ad the
women were dancing and interacting with the men. One shot featured a topless woman with the phrase FANCY A PAIR? written on the screen. Other scenes included: a woman on her knees facing a man who was using a machine to shoot paper money notes
into the woman's face; a topless woman serving a man a drink; and men shaking up a bottle of liquid, then spraying it across the room.
Nine complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive because they were sexist, objectifying women, and degrading to women.
Redfoot Shoes Ltd t/a Goodwin Smith said that the campaign had attempted to portray a fantasy concept in which the men were portrayed as being confident; this was not meant to degrade women. They also said that their typical consumer was men aged
between 22 and 45 years, with an interest in sport and other luxury brands associated with clothing and lifestyle. The ads had been formulated specifically for potential consumers within their target demographic, therefore they felt the platforms
used to promote the campaign would only been seen by consumers who had actively chosen to receive or view the content. They provided evidence of the impact of their social media posts and stated that some of their most popular posts featured
photographs of women in provocative poses. Based on this history, they believed they provided a marketing campaign that would be well received by their customers. They also informed us that there were two versions of the video and the version
featuring the women topless came with a warning of the explicit content.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
The ASA considered that a number of scenes in ad (f), such as the opening shot of a topless blonde woman with the phrase FANCY A PAIR? shown on screen and the shot with a woman in her underwear on all fours with the product on her back, were
sexually suggestive and that for most of the video the women danced in a seductive manner.
We considered that in the ads the men were portrayed in a manner viewers were likely to interpret to mean that they were successful, suave and aspirational. For example, during ad (f) they were smartly dressed and well groomed, were consistently
seen to be confidently interacting with the women, and had their names appearing on-screen with aspirational character descriptions, such as the ladies man[sic], the baller and the rebel. In contrast, we considered the women to have been portrayed
in a subservient position -- for example, throughout the video the men remained fully clothed, whereas the women wore either only a nude coloured thong or a lingerie set. Scenes included one shot in which a woman was seen serving a man alcohol
whilst just wearing a thong and in another in which a woman was on her knees facing a man who was using a machine to shoot banknotes into her face. We considered the general content of ad (f), and those scenes in ad (f) in particular, to be both
sexually suggestive and degrading to women, and therefore likely to cause serious offence.
Goodwin Smith acknowledged that the ad was explicit and stated they had highlighted this feature of the campaign in ads (c)--(e) using phrases such as We did warn you accompanied by the not suitable for under 18s emoji and Watch the explicit
campaign video on Youtube now. We considered ads (a)--(e) were similar in style to ad (f) -- for example, the ads included images such as two women in their underwear covering their breasts with the shoes. We considered that topless and
lingerie-clad women were irrelevant to the shoes being advertised and that the general tone of the ads was also both sexually suggestive and degrading to women. We did not think that the warnings provided were sufficient to counter the likely
offence caused by the scenes in the ad.
Because the ads were sexist, degrading to women, and objectifying women, we considered that they were likely to cause serious and widespread offence, including to Goodwin Smith's potential customer base. We concluded they were therefore in breach
of the Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Goodwin Smith to ensure that in the future their ads were socially responsible and that they did not objectify women.
A paid-for video ad on Twitter and a Video On Demand (VOD) ad for Royal Mail:
a. The video ad on Twitter, seen on 27 July 2017, featured a scene with customers and staff in a bank. A short while later a gang of men in balaclavas with baseball bats entered the bank and shouted, This is a robbery. The staff and customers in
the bank were made to get on their knees with their hands held up and were threatened with the baseball bats. One female member of staff was grabbed repeatedly by the shoulder and the wrist and asked her full name and date of birth by one of the
assailants. Other customers were asked similar questions about their personal identity, passwords and log-in details, while a member of the gang appeared to type the information on a hand-held electronic tablet. One customer offered a gang member
money to which he said, We don't want your money. Throughout the scene the members of the public, which included a child, were shouted at aggressively by the assailants, appeared scared and some were crying. One gang member asked another, Got it?
they replied, Got it all, after which the gang left the bank. On-screen text stated Your identity is now your most valuable possession. Text at the end of the ad stated, LET'S BEAT IDENTITY FRAUD followed by text that stated Visit our ID Fraud
Centre for help and advice, accompanied by the Royal Mail logo and the text, The future in safe hands.
b. The VOD ad, seen on ITV Player on 9 August 2017 at approximately 9.00 pm during an episode of Coronation Street, was the same as ad (a).
Seven complainants challenged whether ads (a) and (b) were likely to cause fear and distress without justifiable reason, particularly for those who had been victims of violence, and whether ad (b) was inappropriately placed at a time when children
could have been viewing.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA noted that Royal Mail had sought and followed advice regarding the ad's placement from Clearcast and CAP's Copy Advice team, and acknowledged that the ad had not been shown on VOD before 9 pm. We concluded therefore, that it was unlikely
that children had seen ad (b).
We acknowledged that identity fraud was a growing problem and it was important that steps were taken to inform the general public about how serious it was and how they could protect themselves. While we understood that the scenario of a bank
robbery was chosen to emphasise the seriousness of the crime, we noted that this was not among the common scenarios in which identity fraud was perpetrated. As a result, we considered that consumers would not be able to clearly see from the ad how
they could protect themselves, for example by avoiding certain actions that could make them potentially vulnerable to identity fraud. We noted the ads' reference to the Royal Mail's ID fraud centre, but it did not appear until the very end of the
ad, during which time the scenario was presented without explanation or context.
Furthermore, because the setting of the ad was recognisable and showed ordinary people, including a child, being shouted at aggressively by criminals, lying on the floor and trying to hide behind furniture, and looking visibly frightened, the
impact was heightened and there was an added sense of threat. Because of this, we considered it to be reminiscent of other crimes or situations that people may have experienced that extends beyond the bank robbery depicted and therefore could
trigger negative emotions for those who had been victims of violence. We did not consider that the use of baseball bats made the ad less violent than if knives and guns had been used, as the bats were often shown held in a threatening manner by
the criminals or positioned next to customers heads.
We understood Royal Mail and ITV's view that the ad served to highlight a serious and growing crime and to assist customers to find information to protect themselves. We noted from the results of the test sample of viewers that the ad may have
increased ID fraud awareness for those who had seen it. We also noted that Royal Mail had amended the Twitter ad so that a warning appeared accompanying the video and that they did not intend to use the ad again. However, we considered that the
overall presentation of the ads, as seen by the complainants, was excessively threatening and distressing to the extent that it overshadowed the message the ad intended to convey. We concluded the ad was likely to cause fear and distress to
viewers, in particular to victims of violence, without a justifiable reason.
We told Royal Mail to ensure that in future their ads did not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.
A magazine ad for Condé Nast Traveller Magazine seen in Glamour Magazine on 22 June 2017 featured a model posed on a beach.
A complainant believed the model looked unhealthily thin and challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA considered that while the model appeared to be in proportion, the angle of the image drew attention to her slimness, particularly her legs which looked very long and thin. We also noted that she was part way through twisting and that the
outline of her body could be seen through her top, emphasising the narrowness of her waist. We acknowledged that the ad was for a travel magazine and that its focus was not supposed to be on the model or her clothes; however, we considered that
the model was the focal point of the image, therefore we concluded that the ad made the model look unhealthily thin and that the ad was irresponsible.
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Condé Nast Publications Ltd to ensure that in the future their ads were prepared responsibly.
A pop-up banner ad promoting the website www.wish.com, which appeared in the in-game app, Simon's Cat Crunch Time
and was seen on 24 July 2017. The ad featured an image of a fake tattoo which looked like a bite mark on a woman's chest.
The complainant challenged whether the ad had been targeted responsibly, because they believed it could cause harm to children who saw it.
wish.com did not respond to our enquiries.
The publisher of the app Strawdog Studios, said they had not intended to display the ad to their users and explained that it had been served through a third-party Application Programming Interface (API). Their set up with the API was intended to
filter out ads like the one complained about. They explained that because of the large volume of ads they served, it occasionally happened that an ad was not caught by their filter and in that situation they would remove the specific provider
manually. They also did this when people complained to them directly, although they had not received any direct customer complaints about the ad. They said they were not going to serve any further ads from wish.com.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA was concerned by wish.com's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code.
(Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ASA understood that Simon's Cat Crunch Time was an in-game app that featured a cartoon cat. The aim of the game was for the player to help the cat find his treats. We considered the app was likely to have strong appeal to children and
therefore children were likely to have seen the ad. We noted that it was not clear from the ad that the product shown was a fake tattoo and we considered that the image, of a bite mark on a woman's chest which was red and bloody, might cause
distress to children who saw it. Because of that, we considered the ad had not been targeted responsibly and therefore breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in an untargeted medium. We told wish.com to ensure that ads were appropriately targeted.