A church in Northern Ireland, which had a newspaper ad banned for using the biblical word sodomy , has had the ban overturned in the High Court.
ASA, the UK advert censor banned the ad in 2008, but the court said banning the ad was a breach of the church's rights to free speech.
The judge, Justice Treacy, said the ad quoted well-known passages of the Bible and constituted a genuine attempt to stand up for the church's beliefs.
Justice Treacy said:
Whilst such views and scriptural references may be strongly disdained and considered seriously offensive by some, this does not justify the full scope of the restrictions contained in the impugned determination.
The judge also said the ad must be read in context. He pointed out that at the previous year's Gay Pride march a banner stating Jesus is a fag was carried, uninterrupted, by one of the participants. He also said the advertisement did
not condone and was not likely to provoke violence .
Rev David McIlveen described the decision as a landmark ruling, meaning that scripture could be quoted freely.
In 2008 Sandown Free Presbyterian Church placed an advert in the Belfast News Letter calling on people to meet in a gospel witness against the act of sodomy . The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received seven complaints about the
advert and banned any further publication with the comment:
The ASA noted the ad prominently stated Published by the Kirk Session of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church and recognised that readers would understand that the text was representative of the beliefs of a specific
group and indicative of their opinion only. We considered, however, that some of the text used in relation to homosexuality, for example, ... declaring it to be an abomination ... , . .. God's judgement upon a sin ... , . ..
remove the guilt of their wrongdoing ... , ... a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality ... , went further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.
We considered that particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of sexual orientation, and concluded that this ad had caused serious offence to some readers.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency) but did not breach 8.1 (Matters of opinion).
A prize promotion, displayed in the window of an Officers Club shop, stated WIN A LADS HOLIDAY TO AYIA NAPA . It featured two photographs. One showed three girls smiling at the camera and was labelled Ayia Napa
2011 . The second photo showed a woman from the neck to the waist wearing a small bikini top and was labelled Awesome Views . Text below stated START 2011 WITH A BANG! .
1. Five complainants challenged whether the image of a woman's body in combination with the label Awesome Views was offensive, because they believed it objectified women.
2. Five complainants also challenged whether the ad was inappropriately placed where it could be seen by children.
Officers Club 1979 explained that the ad had appeared in all their stores throughout the United Kingdom. They acknowledged they had received a very small number of complaints and explained that these complaints had
been resolved by removing part of the imagery.
They said the ad had been targeted at fashion conscious young males in the 16 - 30 age group... and that the images were chosen to reflect the nature of a so called 'lads' holiday to Ayia Napa ... and to attract
the attention of our core consumer .
They acknowledged that the images were mildly provocative, but did not consider them to be indecent. They said that it was not their intention for the ad to cause offence.
ASA Assessment: 1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA acknowledged that the ad was a prize promotion related to a lads holiday. We considered that the sole focus on the womans chest, in conjunction with the text Awesome views , was likely to be seen as
gratuitous and to objectify women. We considered that the image was likely to cause serious offence to some and was not suitable to be displayed in an untargeted medium where it could be seen by children.
The ad breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 4.1 (Harm and offence) and 8.6 and 8.7 (Protection of consumers, safety and suitability)
An ad for music gigs, in the Guide section of the Guardian, was headlined with the name of the band HOLYFUCK . The ad also featured a picture of the band, tour dates and booking information.
One complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and inappropriate for use in a supplement that was likely to be seen by children.
Kilimanjaro Live said Holy Fuck were a Canadian band and that Kilimanjaro had been the bands live promoter in the UK for about 12 months.
Kilimanjaro said the Guide was specifically chosen as it was an industry standard weekly going-out guide that was a hugely successful form of advertising for them. They believed the Guide was an acceptable place to advertise a band with that name
because it was an adult oriented entertainment guide aimed at teens and older. They said it was common for editorial in the Guide to contain the word fuck uncensored.
Kilimanjaro said they accepted that the name of the band created potential issues but believed the bands music lent itself to the use of such a controversial word in their name and argued that they had a justifiable right to use the word in the
way in which they did. Kilimanjaro said the band were not a controversial act and their name had been used on many gig posters, flyers and tour ads in the time that Kilimanjaro had been working with them without any complaints except the one
received by the ASA.
The Guardian said they carefully scrutinised all advertising copy prior to publication and had decided to accept the ad. They argued that the Guide was clearly targeted at a young adult audience who were very unlikely to be shocked by the
language in the ad and pointed out that swearwords could also sometimes be found in the Guides editorial content. They believed it was impossible for the band to promote themselves without using their full name.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA noted that the word HOLYFUCK was the name of the advertised band and we also noted that the Guide was targeted at older teens and adults. However, we considered that, because it was placed in an entertainment listings supplement to
a national newspaper, the ad was likely to be seen by a wide variety of readers including children. We considered, in that context, that the name HOLYFUCK was likely to cause serious or widespread offence to some readers.
[how does it cause 'widespread' offence to just 'some' readers. Sounds like the censors are twisting their own rules]
The ad breached CAP Code rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
A poster for a Channel Four comedy show featured the title Tramadol Nights which was written in the style of the fabric craft toy, fuzzy felt. The poster also featured fuzzy felt style images of a badger firing a machine gun, two rabbits
attacking each other with hypodermic needles and another who had been stabbed with knives. The ad also featured an animal holding a chainsaw and pools of blood. Issue
Thirteen complainants objected to the ad:
1. Nine complainants said the use of animals made from fuzzy felt was likely to appeal to younger children and that the featured images of drugs and violence were harmful and likely to cause distress.
2. Two complainants objected that the ad was irresponsible because it could encourage the use of recreational drugs.
3. Two complainants objected that the ad was offensive because of the reference to drugs and violence in the context of a child's toy.
CAP Code (Edition 12) 188.8.131.52 Response
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted Channel 4s statement that the advertised programme was shown after 9pm and that this was stated in the poster. However, we also noted the ad appeared in an untargeted medium and considered that, regardless of the target audience of
the programme, the ad itself was likely to have been seen by children. We additionally noted the ad featured brightly coloured fuzzy felt animals and considered that such images were likely to attract the attention of younger children. However,
we considered that the images of the animals alongside the violence and hypodermic needles were stylised and fantasy-like and that most children would not perceive the images as real or interpret them as a reflection of reality. We concluded that
the ad was unlikely to cause harm or distress to children.
Investigated under CAP Code rules 4.1 and 4.2 (Harm and offence) but did not found in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted the ad featured images of rabbits injecting each other with hypodermic needles and considered that this was an implied reference to drugs. However, we considered that the fuzzy felt images of animals were stylised and clearly removed
from reality and that they neither glamorised nor condoned the use of intravenous drugs in humans. We concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.
Investigated under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) but did not found in breach.
3. Not upheld
We noted the ad used fuzzy felt, a well-known childrens toy, to portray a broken society through images of animals, violence and drugs. Whilst we acknowledged that the juxtaposition of the fuzzy felt characters and the violent imagery might make
some consumers feel uncomfortable, we considered that most consumers would interpret the sharp contrasts to be absurd and surreal. We concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Investigated under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) 4.1 and 4.2 (Harm and offence) but did not found in breach.
From 1 March, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) gets powers to police the claims companies make on websites and social networks. The rules cover statements on sites that can be interpreted as marketing, even if they are not in an advert.
Extending the UK advertising code to non paid-for statements means that these, like paid-for adverts, must not harm, mislead or offend.
Since 2008, the advert censor has received more than 4,500 complaints concerning text on websites that it could do nothing about.
While aimed primarily at sites using the .co.uk domain suffix, the ASA said its powers could also cover .com sites, such as Facebook, if the online space being used was under the control of a UK firm.
However, the transient nature of online content may make the rules difficult to police, according to Vincent-Wayne Mitchell, professor of consumer marketing at London's Cass Business School: I could have an advert up on the internet for a week
or for an hour, cause widespread confusion, get sales from that, and then withdraw it. The only punishment that the ASA has is withdrawal, but I can have that as part of my own marketing strategy.
User-generated content, such as comments left by customers on a website, will not be covered by the extended powers.
To encourage firms to comply, the ASA said it would extend a name-and-shame policy which will expose firms that make unsupportable claims. Further sanctions for offenders could see non-compliant material removed from search engines. The ASA said
it might also take out adverts to warn people about companies that do not comply with the code.
In anticipation of the extra work it will have to do, the ASA has expanded the number of staff in its complaints and investigations unit by 10%.
A TV ad for Fox Mobile ringtones featured the American ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham, with his dummy, Achmed, the Dead Terrorist . The ringtones used some of the phrases from Dunham's act which included Silence! I kill you , Stop
touching me and Knock, knock. Who's there? Me. I kill you .
A viewer challenged whether the ad was offensive because he believed it was racist towards Muslims.
ASA Assessment: Not upheld
The ASA understood that the ad featured the puppet Achmed, the Dead Terrorist, which was a well-known part of Jeff Dunhams ventriloquism act.
We understood that that particular comedy act touched on the theme of terrorism and we also understood that there would be viewers who found the puppet character and comedy theme of terrorism distasteful or offensive.
However, we noted that at no time did the ad make any reference to terrorism or the Islamic faith. We also noted that, whilst the ad showed some footage of the act, its emphasis was on the phrases Silence! I kill you, Stop touching me and Knock,
knock, whos there? Me, I kill you which were available to download as mobile phone ringtones. Whilst we understood that some viewers might find those ringtones distasteful, we considered that the content of the ad accurately reflected the nature
of the product being advertised. Because the ad itself contained no direct reference to terrorism or the Muslim religion, we concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 4.2 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
A TV ad, for Foot Locker, showed a man and woman rushing into a bedroom. The woman removed the man's trousers and he lay face down on the bed. The woman then straddled the man and began to hit him across the backside
with different trainers. The man attempted to guess the brand of trainer correctly; if he was wrong, he was hit again. On-screen text at the end of the ad stated Foot Locker. It's a sneaker thing.
Clearcast applied a post-7.30 pm scheduling restriction to the ad.
One viewer, who saw the ad at 11 am on ESPN, while watching with her 3-year-old son, challenged whether the ad was distressing, particularly for children, and was inappropriately scheduled.
ESPN said it was generally the case that ratings on the channel were very low during the daytime, when there was no live sport scheduled, and that the general viewing figures at the time the ad was broadcast were minimal and
did not even register on the BARB figures. The child index overall was therefore also typically low at that time.
Assessment: Not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad relied on adult humour, which was odd and surreal in tone. Although we acknowledged that the humour might not be to every viewers taste, we considered that most adult viewers would understand that
the ad was intended to be comedic and would not be distressed by the action.
We noted that the man was not displaying any visible signs of pain when being smacked and did not consider that the ad featured a realistic and disturbing portrayal of violence. Therefore, although we considered that
children would be unlikely to understand the basis of the ads humour, we did not consider that they would be frightened or upset by the action depicted in the ad. Nonetheless, in light of the ads adult content and tone, we did not consider that
it was suitable for very young children to see. However, we noted that the audience data showed that the general viewing figures at the time the ad was broadcast (for both adults and children) were very low, and that only a small proportion of
children under the age of 16 years had watched the channel on that day. We therefore understood that the likelihood of young children viewing the ad was low.
We noted that the broadcaster had not applied Clearcasts post-7.30 pm scheduling restriction in this instance, but understood that it would apply that restriction in future. However, because we understood that showing the ad
on ESPN at that time generally avoided young children, we concluded it was not unacceptable to have broadcast the ad at that time.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 4.1 (Harm and offence), 5.1 (Children), 32.1 and 32.3 (Scheduling), but did not find it in breach.
The Ministry of Justice is in consultation about expanding the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to include the advertising censors at the ASA.
The ASA will argue that it should not be covered by the act because it could compromise the goodwill it shares with the advertisers it relies on for funding.
There are also concerns that commercially sensitive information provided to confirm advertising claims may be compromised.
The censor will also argue that it already provides a transparent service.It claims on its website that it tries to be helpful and transparent when answering queries and will provide detailed information and responses wherever possible .
The proposal to add the ASA to the bodies covered by the act will be included in the Freedom Bill. A statutory consultation between the Ministry of Justice and the ASA will follow with a decision expected later this year.
A TV ad for TDC, a telecommunications provider, featured a man and a woman dressed in nude suits. The woman sang a song in Danish, the lyrics of which included the phrase ... jag er sa* fucking stolt ... . Issue
One viewer, who saw the ad on TV3 Denmark, thought the ad contained the word fucking and the swearing was offensive.
TDC said the ad was part of a long running and well-known humorous campaign, introduced in Denmark in September 2009, based around three famous comedic actors playing the roles of a middle-aged married couple and their neighbour. The husband and
wife were naturists. The neighbour had no phone, Internet or TV and the couple's aim was to get him updated on telecommunications. The campaign had been rolled out on national Danish TV as an ongoing series of ads.
Viasat Broadcasting UK provided a translation of the ad and the song it contained. They said the phrase identified by the complainant, Det idag vi fejrer slverfest, jag er s fucking stolt , translated into English as It is today we
celebrate our silver anniversary, I'm so damn proud . Viasat argued that the English word fucking had become part of the Danish language as a slang word, it had lost some of its original English meaning and with it its level of
offence, and the pronunciation of it had even changed to focking , to sound more Danish. They (as bilingual Danish and English speakers) did not believe fucking was the correct Danish translation of the word in the context of the
ad. They said the word was not used in the ad in a negative, offensive or hurtful way, but was intended to emphasize how proud the wife was of her husband, and was more akin to the milder term damn . They continued that the word fucking
was used as a Danish word in a Danish sentence in the ad, and should not be seen as having the same meaning or connotations as the word fucking might have in the UK. Although it was a swear word, fucking was used as an expression in
both positive and negative situations and they did not believe it would be considered offensive in Denmark, although they appreciated that if the ad had been broadcast to a UK audience, some viewers might have found the word offensive. Viasat
believed that, although the Danish population had a good understanding of English, they would associate the word fucking with its mild Danish meaning.
ASA Assessment: Not upheld
The ASA understood that fucking , although a swear word in Danish, was much milder than, and did not have the same offensive connotations as, the word fucking in English. We concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or
widespread offence to viewers in Denmark.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 4.2 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
An ad, in Harrods Magazine, for clothing and accessories sold in the store, showed a woman lying at the foot of a staircase, with a blood stain on the floor near her head. A man holding a heavy candlestick was standing next to her and text below
him stated Professor Plum with the candlestick in the hall?
One complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and likely to condone violence.
ASA Assessment: Not upheld
Although we noted that the ad depicted a scene which heavily implied that a violent act had taken place, we noted that the presentation was very stylised and the focus was on presenting the fashion and jewellery, rather than portraying a
realistic image of violence. We considered that readers would clearly associate the image with the well-known board game Cluedo and would understand, in that context, that the scene related to the object of the game, namely, discovering which
Cluedo character had committed a murder, in which room and with which object. We therefore considered that readers would see the image as a darkly humorous representation of a popular board game and, in light of that, concluded that the ad was
unlikely to cause offence or condone violence.
We investigated the ad under rules 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
A TV ad, for Belle D'Opium perfume, featured a woman dancing to a drum beat. The woman pointed to her inner elbow and ran her finger along the inside of her forearm. She was then shown lying on the floor as a voice-over began I am your
addiction, I am Belle D'Opium. The new fragrance by Yves St Laurent.
Thirteen viewers objected that the ad was irresponsible and offensive, because the woman's actions simulated drug use.
ASA Assessment: Upheld
The ASA understood the ad had been carefully choreographed and styled to create Belle and her movements as a way of emphasising the powerful and intense qualities of the perfume, and to play on the idea the perfume had addictive qualities like a
woman or opium. However, we noted that the ad broadcast on TV was only 20 seconds of the full one-minute ad featured on the Belle d'Opium website, and that it had been cut to feature predominantly the quickest and most dramatic music and scenes
from the full ad.
We noted that two of the key scenes, the circular symbol and wings gesture scenes, were omitted from the TV ad, and other key scenes were altered. We considered that the fast changing scenes and urgent music, created a less flowing, more frantic
atmosphere in the ad, which might not enable viewers to interpret the ad as a stylised expression of femininity and bewitchment, as intended.
We were concerned that in the context of the ad, Belle running her finger down her inner arm could be seen to simulate the injection of opiates into the body. We were also concerned that following that scene, Belle was shown moving in a series of
short, rapid scenes, before the ad concluded with her body seizing upwards while lying on the floor, an action we considered could be seen to simulate the effect of drugs on the body. While we recognised the name OPIUM was a well-known designer
perfume brand and did not consider it irresponsible or offensive to advertise OPIUM branded products, and while we noted the consumer research found that most viewers did not consider the ad to be offensive, we nevertheless considered the woman's
actions simulated drug use, and therefore concluded it was irresponsible and unacceptable for broadcast.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility), 4.1 (Physical, mental, moral or social harm), 4.4 (Health and safety), and 4.9 (Violence, crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour), but did not breach 4.2 (Serious or widespread
A press ad, in Venue magazine, a Bristol Metro supplement, featured an image of the Virgin Mary holding a disco ball to advertise a themed club night. Text stated EVERY SATURDAY THEKLA BRISTOL FREE ENTRY BEFORE 10PM GUILTY POP
PLEASURES FOR SINNERS POP CONFESSIONAL WWW.POPCONFESSIONAL.CO.UK .
A complainant objected to the ad as offensive, as it mocked Christians, and Catholics in particular.
Venue Publishing said The Metro was a free paper aimed at young commuters, with significant content regarding entertainment and nightlife for that demographic. Because of that readership, they said they were surprised at the complaint, and
believed it was very unlikely any regular readers were offended by the ad. They added that they had received no complaints themselves about the ad.
ASA Assessment: Not upheld
The ASA understood that the intention was to light heartedly play on the idea that enjoying certain types of music was something people were ashamed to admit. We acknowledged that notions of sinning and confession originated from a religious
context, but considered that they had become embedded in secular society with a wider application, especially amongst the intended audience. While we understood some readers may have found it distasteful to use the Virgin Mary to promote a
nightclub, we did not consider that the ad portrayed religion negatively, and considered that most of the young and fashionable audience of the magazine were likely to interpret the ad as a tongue-in-cheek joke at poor music taste, and not a joke
at the expense of Christianity or Catholicism. We therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, or that it mocked Christians, and Catholics in particular.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) Clause 4.1 (Harm and Offence) but did not find it in breach.
More on the same theme
There's more on the them at the website
popconfessional.co.uk . Perhaps Hall & Oates, David Essex, Foreigner, Journey, 5ive and Craig David could obtain a little free publicity by being 'offended' that their music is considered a sin.
Our Father, who art in pop-heaven, hallowed by thy name…
The POP CONFESSIONAL comes to Bristol for the first time! Your host for the evening is Father Valentine Spinoza who will be spinning all your favourite guilty pop pleasures until the wee small hours of Sunday morning,
leaving you ready for Mass in the morning.
We'll bring you pop classics covering all musical eras, from Hall & Oates and David Essex to Foreigner and Journey to 5ive and Craig David. We also want you to confess your musical sins in our video confessional booth.
Our favourite confessions will be put up on our YouTube channel and the best will win some excellent pop prizes!
Expect shameless dancing to tunes you know you shouldn't, pop-priests and naughty-nuns, dressing up of all kinds, outrageous dance moves and pure party vibes the Lord Himself would be proud of.
On 17 January 2011 we have launched our new ad campaign to raise awareness of the ASA's work to ensure all ads continue to be legal, decent, honest and truthful.
The ads also aim to inform businesses about the ASA's extended remit online which, from 1 March, will include marketing communications by companies on their own websites.
It also seems a bit confusing though. Why should all adverts be decent? I can't see anything in the actual codes that require all adverts to be decent. Only that ads shouldn't be somehow harmful in the context with
which they appear. So this would surely require ads to be decent on daytime TV. But this simply does not apply to an 'indecent' hardcore ad in a men's magazine.
There also seems little information on how the new code applies to some of the complexities about internet jurisdiction. Even small websites can be very multinational, with internet servers being in different countries to the content providers.
and indeed, to the target audience. And even less information about such key concepts as labelling and child protection mechanisms.
The codes do not appear to have been written with websites in mind.
A TV ad, for the film SAW 3D , started with images of two men, one of whom was screaming and reaching towards the viewer with blood on his hand. A voice-over stated Since the beginning you have watched others .
The following images showed a bare-chested man breathing heavily in a car with a broken windscreen, people on a street looking at a window display, a swinging cage, a spiked metal mesh crashing down, and a man falling out of the bottom of a
hanging cage as the voice-over continued Now it is your turn to play.
The next scene showed spiky metal restraints suddenly appearing around the arm and shoulders of a man wearing 3D glasses. He screamed. The voice-over continued Experience the final ever Saw in eye-popping, heart-pounding, mind-blowing 3D whilst images were shown of circular saw blades flying over the people in a cinema and towards the viewer, people cowering from an explosion, two people hanging from a shaft, a close-up of a screaming man falling, a huge figure reaching out into the cinema from the screen and lifting a person back towards the screen, and a cage crashing through a window.
The voice of the Jigsaw character said The last piece of the puzzle is you as the camera moved towards a woman tied between rail tracks, followed by a vehicle on the same tracks coming towards the viewer and flying out over the
people in the cinema making them flinch. The voice-over stated Saw 3D. On-screen text stated SAW 3D THE FINAL CHAPTER . Circular-saw blades flew towards the viewer and the voice-over continued Only available in cinemas October
28th. On-screen text IN CINEMAS THURS OCT 28 appeared under the preceding text.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a post 7.30 pm restriction.
The complainant, who was ten years of age and who saw the ad at 8:29pm during The Gadget Show on Channel 5, thought the ad was distressing and was inappropriately scheduled.
ASA Assessment : Complaint Upheld
The ASA noted Clearcasts assertion that, apart from the scene where a man had blood on his hand, the viewer did not see any more blood or scenes of injury or death. However, we also noted that many of the scenes showed people in distress and in
We considered that, although the ad was clearly for a film and therefore based in fantasy, the scenes of people in the cinema - particularly those where they were suddenly trapped by metal restraints and where the figure reached out and pulled a
cinema-goer back towards the screen - linked the scenes from the film with a recognisably real situation. We considered it was therefore likely to cause distress to young children who might not make a clear distinction between the scenes from the
film and the scenes in the cinema, and a post 7.30pm restriction was not sufficient. We concluded that a post 9pm restriction ought to have been applied, to minimise the possibility of young children seeing the ad.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules:
4.1 (Harm and Offence),
5.1 (Children), 32.1, and
32.3 (Scheduling of Television and Radio Advertisements).