a. A virtual tour link for a bathroom installation on www.hdsbuilders.co.uk, seen on 21 March 2017, featured an image of a naked woman showering.
b. A still image from the virtual tour, showing the naked woman, with the option to click on the tour, was seen on the home page of www.wetroomswales.co.uk on 15 May 2017.
A complainant challenged whether the image of the naked woman in ads (a) and (b) was offensive and unsuitable for display in an untargeted medium.
HDS Builders said people did not shower wearing clothing and therefore the image of the naked woman showering was appropriate for a virtual tour of a bathroom installation. They appreciated that some people might not find the image acceptable, but
no intimate body parts were visible and they did not believe it was indecent.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA acknowledged that someone using a shower would be naked, but considered that it was not essential to use such an image in order to explain how a shower worked or to highlight a bathroom installation. Although the image had some relevancy
to a bathroom and shower, we nonetheless considered it was likely to be seen as sexist and to demean women by using their physical features for no other reason than to draw attention to the advertising.
The woman was fully nude, shown full length side on, with her bottom sticking out, her back arched and with some of her breast visible under her folded arms. In light of the nudity, we considered the pose was provocative and could be seen to be
sexually suggestive with the tone further enhanced in the virtual tour in ad (a) because it was possible to freeze the image, zoom in and out and change the angle.
We considered that, because the websites were for a builder, consumers would not expect to see a naked woman either on the home page of ad (b) or at the start of the virtual tour in ads (a) and (b), and the image had the potential to be seen by
many people who were likely to find it offensive.
We therefore concluded that the ads were inappropriately targeted and, because of the amount of nudity and the woman's sexually provocative pose, the image was likely to cause serious offence.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told HDS Builders not to use similar images in its advertising in future.
An ad for Revo Turf, an artificial grass supplier and installer, seen in the landscape gardening trade magazine Pro
Landscaper on 4 April 2017, featured an image of a woman's legs from the knee down. Her legs were bare and she was wearing high heels, and standing on artificial grass. Large text stated The best way to get laid ..., followed by a description of
the advertiser's products in smaller text. The description concluded The Turf Group is the only place to get a good lay.
The complainant challenged whether the references to getting laid in combination with the image were offensive.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA understood that laying turf was a commonly used term in the landscaping sector. We also acknowledged that the image of the woman's legs was not sexually explicit. However, we considered that when the image was combined with the headline
The best way to get laid and the further text The Turf Group is the only place to get a good lay, the references would be understood as a double entendre linking the landscaping terminology of laying turf with the slang terminology of getting
laid. We considered that connection had the effect of demeaning and objectifying women by presenting them as sexual objects in order to draw attention to the ad. We therefore concluded the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some consumers.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Pile Height Ltd t/a Turf Group to ensure that future ads did not portray women in a manner that objectified them and which was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
A cinema ad for Responsible Gambling Trust, seen in February 2017, showed a young woman sitting on her bed while an
older man sat on a desk in the corner of the room. The older man said, in a sinister and menacing way, What is it? What is it? It's just a bit of fun. Hey [laughs] it's just a bit of fun. It's just a bit of fun. Remember that rush. The best
feeling you've ever had. Your words, it was perfect, you said it was. It was 10 out of 10; it was 100 out of 100. You tingled, you tingled. Your whole body was tingling. Don't tell me you don't remember that, you remember that, you remember every
second of that. You of all people need to have a little bit of fun. Fun 206 fun 206 fun. You are a great winner; I'm not just saying that. I'm saying it, you're a great winner. [Laughs] You and me let's go, let's do it again, let's do it again.
You love it there, I love it there; you always win there. You're a winner there, you and me now. That place that you've never felt so good. During the monologue close up shots focused on his eyes and mouth. After the monologue, the girl went over
to the desk where the man had disappeared and a laptop was revealed in his place. On the screen a bingo game was shown and she appeared to sign in and play. Large text then stated BeGambleAware.org.Issue
The complainant, who believed the role of the male character could be interpreted as predatory and sexually abusive, objected that the ad was likely to cause offence and distress.
Responsible Gambling Trust trading as BeGambleAware said they provided a brief to agencies where they insisted on safeguards including testing the ad with the target age range (15- to 24-year olds) to give assurance that the ad did not inspire
viewers to gamble, or was too unnerving and therefore would obscure the message, or to be mistaken for ads against gambling, rather than about the risks of problem gambling. They said in the light of the classifications given by British Board of
Film Classification (BBFC) and Cinema Advertising Agency (CAA), they decided to target only 18s or over with the ad. They said they deliberately only agreed to show the ad in cinemas before the film Trainspotting 2, an 18+ rated film about hard
drug addiction. They argued that public awareness about problem gambling justified and outweighed any potential for offence that might be caused.
They also provided a statement issued by the BBFC about the content of the ad which said In the public information film a woman lies on a bed in a sparsely furnished, rather bleak bedroom as a man sits on a desk, which is set back from the bed.
The two characters do not have any physical contact and only the man speaks. The man encourages the woman to gamble by persistently reminding her of the buzz it offers and by suggesting that she deserves a little bit of fun. The woman is
conflicted as to whether or not to give into her desire to gamble. Whilst she is reluctant, worried and nervous at the beginning, following the man's persistent exhortations, she smiles, puts aside her qualms, opens her laptop (which appears where
the man was seated), and logs onto an online gambling site. The suggestion of inner turmoil and conflicted feelings on her part, as well as some slightly creepy aspects to the man's monologue on the pleasures of gambling mean the film was most
appropriately placed at PG for the mildly unsettling tone and for the suggestion of addiction-related psychological turmoil. The BBFC also noted that the film contains a strong anti-gambling message.
The Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) said they approved the ad on the condition of its being restricted to screening with 12A films and above.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA considered that until the reveal in the final moments of the ad, viewers were unlikely to understand what the ad was promoting. We considered that, after the reveal, most viewers would understand that the male character was a metaphor or
representative of an inner monologue. We noted that the advertiser's intention was to demonstrate a woman in her bedroom battling against the urge to gamble online, but we considered that for much of the ad this purpose was ambiguous and unclear.
We acknowledged the CAA's view that there were parallels drawn between sexual seduction and being seduced by the thrill of an early win on a gambling site. That view was supported by the threatening and coercive language used, the predatory manner
by which the monologue was delivered and the female character's positioning and behaviour, indicative of fear and shame. However, we considered that up until the reveal there was no information or other explanatory features in the ad that would
provide the viewer with context for why they were viewing what they were viewing. We considered that, because of the lack of context, the ad reproduced a scenario of abuse. We considered that viewing such a scenario of abuse, notwithstanding the
use of metaphor and the fact the ad was only seen before the film Trainspotting 2 which was about drug addiction, was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We also considered that viewers would find the sexually coercive and abusive scenario shocking and distressing and that victims/survivors of abuse would find the ad highly distressing and/or traumatic. We did not consider that the advertiser's
intention (as presented in the ad) justified the distress experienced by viewers generally, and the distress caused to this vulnerable group in particular.
We therefore concluded that the ad was offensive and breached the Code. The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Responsible Gambling Trust to avoid using similarly offensive and distressing material in their future advertising.
A TV ad for StarWins.com, seen on 17 January 2017, began with a shot of two men standing at a bar in a pub next to a table where a man and a woman were chatting to each other. One of the men at the bar watched a woman as she walked past before a
voice-over stated, Allow me to introduce you to Star Wins and one of the men pulled out his mobile phone and swiped the screen. The men were transported to a casino. The camera panned from a woman in a sequined dress dancing on a stage to
the men as they walked down a flight of stairs. As they reached the floor of the casino the voice-over stated, For you card sharks we've got real female croupiers who can handle that as a woman wearing a sequined gold dress walked between
them. The men watched her as she walked towards and past them and turned to look behind them to continue watching her as she walked to join the other dancers on stage. The men smiled at each other and continued further into the casino. The
voice-over stated, Or if roulette is your thing, we'll put you in a spin 24/7 as the two men walked past a table where two female croupiers wearing tight, low-cut dresses stood with two female and one male gambler. The croupiers watched the
men closely as they walked past. The men then approached a roulette table where a female croupier stood, along with a group of mainly female gamblers. One of the men flipped a chip onto the table while staring intently at the croupier. The
voice-over continued, You'll be surprised where it can take you. Star Wins. Get in the game as the men were shown throwing chips into the air in celebration, surrounded by the group of women. A final shot showed them celebrating back at the
bar in the pub. The couple at the table next to the bar turned to smile at them.
1. One complainant, who felt the ad was sexist and objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad suggested that gambling could enhance personal qualities, and linked gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA noted that all the casino employees seen in the ad were women and that the majority of the people present in the casino were women. While in the casino the men only interacted with each other or with women (rather than other men), and when
interacting with women in each case either the men or the women gave each other intense looks which suggested they were appraising them physically. We considered the ad put particular visual emphasis both on the generally high proportion of women
in the casino and on the physical attractiveness of the female casino employees to the two male protagonists.
We considered that the combination of those visual emphases with the voice-over specifically highlighting that Daily Star Wins (which provided only online casino services) employed real female croupiers, served to depict the presence of
physically attractive women as the key attraction of Daily Star Wins. We considered the ad therefore objectified women, and concluded it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence on that basis.
When the men were initially shown in the pub the only person who paid attention to them was the barman serving their drinks. We noted that in contrast, in the casino they exchanged intense looks with the female casino employees, a group of people
(mainly consisting of women) began to gather around them as they approached the roulette table, and that group had grown when they were shown winning and celebrating. We considered that all those aspects of the ad together created an impression
that the men's interest in and eventual success at gambling had gained them recognition and admiration, and made them more popular and attractive to women. We concluded the ad therefore suggested that gambling could enhance personal qualities, and
that it linked gambling to seduction and enhanced attractiveness.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Bear Group Ltd t/a Daily Star Wins to ensure their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence through the depiction of or objectification of women. We also told them to ensure their
ads did not suggest that gambling could enhance personal qualities, or link gambling to seduction or enhanced attractiveness.
A poster and digital outdoor ad for Protein World, seen in February 2017:
a. The poster was seen on the London Underground network and featured Khloe Kardashian in a swimsuit with text that stated Can You Keep Up with a KARDASHIAN? . Text further stated Take the protein world 30 Day Challenge .
b. The digital outdoor ad featured the same text and image as ad (a).
Fourteen complainants, who believed the ads promoted an unhealthy and competitive approach to dieting, objected that the ads were socially irresponsible.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
The ASA understood that the Copy Advice team had seen the ads prior to them appearing and advised that they were likely to be acceptable.
We considered that the ads promoted Khloe Kardashian's body image as desirable and aspirational; this was supported by her pose and the airbrushed style. However, we did not consider that she appeared to be out of proportion or unhealthy.
We considered that people would understand the phrase Can you keep up with a Kardashian? was double entendre; to be understood as referencing both the popular TV series Keeping up with the Kardashians which Khloe Kardashian appeared
in and the use of Protein World's products to achieve a desirable body image. We further considered that readers would regard Take the 30 Day Challenge read in conjunction with the former phrase and the product name The Slender Blend
to mean that if they used Protein World's products and followed the challenge regime they could lose weight.
We acknowledged that the use of the terms Can you keep up with ... and challenge could be interpreted as having a competitive quality, but we did not consider that the terms or the ads overall encouraged excessive weight loss or
other extreme or potentially harmful dieting behaviour. We therefore concluded the ads were not socially irresponsible.
The Annual Report 2016
reveals how our work has changed and how ASA adapted to a fast changing advertising landscape where nearly half of the work now involves regulating online ‘advertiser-owned’ ads , material that just five years ago wasn’t covered by
2016 marked the five year anniversary of the ASA and CAP extending the advertising rules to cover companies’ and other organisations’ own ad claims on their own websites and social media spaces, for example on You Tube, Facebook and
Twitter. The Annual Report reveals the impact of that change. In the last five years:
The ASA has resolved 41,383 complaints about 36,872 online ‘advertiser-owned’ ads
Those ads accounted for 1 in 3 complained about to the ASA
88% of complaints about online ‘advertiser-owned’ ads were about misleadingness, compared to 73% for complaints across all media.
The report highlights the regulatory challenges the changing advertising landscape poses, with the lines between offline and online and between paid-for, ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ advertising becoming increasingly blurred. And the
report shows how technological change has influenced the ASA’s strategy to have more impact and be more proactive.
Key figures for 2016 included:
The ASA resolved 28,521 complaints about 16,999 ads
4,824 ads were changed or withdrawn as a result of ASA and CAP action (a record year and a 5% increase on 2015)
CAP delivered 281,061 pieces of training and advice to industry to help companies and organisations get their ads right (another record year and a 10% increase on 2015)
The ASA and CAP delivered strong enforcement, with 8 websites taken down, one successful prosecution of an alternative therapy provider following referral to our legal backstop, Trading Standards, and two arrests pending prosecution
A video ad on the online drinks retailer 31Dover.com's website and on Youtube, seen in February 2017, opened on a blurred background and title text The Karma Shotra appeared. Bar paraphernalia including glasses, bottles and a variety of alcohol
products were then shown with doodle drawings such as arms and faces overlaid on them. These characters were shown smiling and touching each other in a sexual manner. Subtitles appeared throughout such as The Cork Screw and The Rim Job ,
each followed by the characters engaging in sexual activity.
Two complainants, who believed the ad strongly linked alcohol to seduction, sexual activity and sexual success, objected that the ad was socially irresponsible and breached the Code.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA considered that the video as featured on the advertiser's own website and on their YouTube channel was an ad which fell within the remit of the CAP Code. The video featured alcohol products and referred throughout to the website URL where
products could be purchased and was therefore clearly directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods and services provided by 31Dover.com.
We considered that the ad strongly linked alcohol to sexual activity. The ad plainly features sexual innuendo, sexual references and sexual activity in association with the promotion of alcohol products and 31Dover.com. We did not consider that because
there was no human and alcohol interaction and there were no specific alcohol products or brands featured that this impression would have been eclipsed. Because the ad linked alcohol with sexual activity, we concluded it was socially irresponsible and
breached the code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 18.1 18.1 Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage
excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable. and 18.5 18.5 Marketing communications must neither link alcohol with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply
that alcohol can enhance attractiveness. (Alcohol).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told 31Dover.com to prepare future advertising in a socially responsible way and not to link alcohol to sexual activity in their future marketing communications.
An email from Selfridges, seen in January 2017, showed a model standing side on in a long blue dress.
A complainant, who believed the model looked unhealthily thin, challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible.
ASA Assessment: Complaint not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that while the image did emphasise the model's slenderness through pose and the style of clothing, she appeared to be in proportion. We considered most people, including young children and women, would interpret the ad as focusing on
the design and fit of the dress, rather than on desirable body image. We considered that, although the model was slim, she did not appear to be unhealthily thin or significantly underweight and therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.
An ad on the advertiser's YouTube channel, seen in December 2016, for the mobile game app Mobile Strike , featured two women wearing bikinis and sitting on sun-loungers. They were playing the game on their phones. In another scene, shot in
slow motion, a third woman, who was wearing a swimsuit, was seen walking down a path towards them and also playing the game on her mobile phone. As she approached, she flicked her hair back from her face and then stopped and looked into the camera. In
the final scene, she approached the other two women and stood with one hand on her hip whilst looking and smiling at the two other women.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive, because they believed it objectified women.
Machine Zone Inc explained that their mobile app game Mobile Strike, was a modern military-themed combat game where players could battle against other players. One important feature of the game was that it could be played on mobile devices, the game was
therefore portable and could be played anywhere. They believed the juxtaposition between what people normally did by the pool (i.e. relax and lounge) with the visuals of the players battling it out with jets and tanks was what made the ad so striking.
That theme was used in other ads for the game -- for example, players battling one another in cafes, restaurants and the launderette. The intention was to show that the Mobile Strike game could liven up a player's time spent in everyday, sometimes
They did not believe the ad objectified women. They said that because of the setting, the women were wearing bathing suits. The intention was to feature real-sized women and reference mythical warrior women like Amazons and Wonder Woman ,
as the women were seen making strategic moves in battle against one another. They said they had concerns that the complainant's objection was the size of the women featured rather than what they were wearing or doing in the ad. They suspected that had
the women been typically thin models seen in ads, it was unlikely that a complaint would have been made. They had decided to feature real-sized women as a nod to their diverse player base.
They said they had run the ad globally for a number of months and had not received any other complaints about it. In fact, they said they had received considerable support from their players for featuring real-sized women in their ad, as they were often
YouTube said the ad did not violate their Community Guidelines or Advertising Policies. They said the ad had been served through AdWords, a self-administered system and it was the advertiser's responsibility to choose appropriate targeting of their ads,
as well as to abide by applicable law and regulations, including the CAP Code.
ASA Assessment. Complaint Upheld
The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised -- a combat-themed mobile game app. We also noted that in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive or sexually-charged. For
example, in one scene, a woman wearing a thong bikini was seen walking towards a sun lounger and the camera angle was taken from below and behind so that as she walked into the scene, only her legs and her thong bikini bottoms were in view. We noted that
another scene featuring one of the women wearing a swimsuit was shot in slow motion, and the emphasis was on her body rather than the mobile game app she was playing. One of the camera angles was shot side-on which highlighted her waist and chest. As she
approached the camera, she flicked her hair back, stopped and looked seductively into the camera. We noted that the ad featured plus-sized models but we considered that fact was irrelevant. For those reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women
and was therefore offensive.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Machine Zone Inc to ensure that its ads in future did not objectify women and cause offence.
The Advertising Standards Authority Chairman, Chris Smith, has announced the appointment of four new Council members -- Neil Stevenson, Tracey Follows, Tess Alps and Nita Patel. The Council is the body responsible for deciding if an ad has broken the
advertising rules. It also operates as the Board of the ASA.
The Council is formed of 13 members of whom two-thirds are independent of industry. The remaining third have a recent, or current, knowledge of the advertising or media sector.
New Council members will begin their terms in April 2017, with the exception of Ms Patel, who will commence her term in April 2018. The new appointments will be replacing Sir Martin Narey, Ray Gallagher and Hamish Pringle, who have all come to the end of
their terms on the Council.
Tracey Follows is Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at The Future Laboratory. She has 20 years' experience in advertising; agency side at Cogent, McCanns, Lowe and VCCP, rising to CSO at J Walter Thompson; and client side as International Advertising
Manager at T-Mobile and Head of Consumer Communications at BT.
Tess Alps is the Chair of Thinkbox and was its first CEO. She is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society, a member of BAFTA and currently sits on the corporate board of The Royal Academy of Arts. Her advertising background includes ITV companies
Television South-West, Yorkshire TV and Tyne-Tees TV and thirteen years as a director of PHD Media, latterly as Chair.
Neil Stevenson is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. He currently sits on the Board of the General Dental Council and is Chair of its Remuneration Committee. His past experience includes 11 years at the Law Society of
Scotland and being a founder Director of the Scottish Arbitration Centre. He has a keen interest in equality, and for five years was a member of the advisory group on diversity to the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.
Nita Patel is a Corporate Communications and Sustainability specialist. Through her business Planet Communications, she has worked with a number of well-known companies helping develop and deliver their sustainability communications. She is also the
co-founder of new coffee shop and co-working space, CAYA, providing a multi-purpose venue for freelancers and nomad workers to eat, work and share space in a flexible fashion. This is her first Board position.