Ads promoted the soft drink IRN-BRU.
a. A TV ad featured a mother cleaning the kitchen as her son and two friends walked in. They greeted each other and the son looked shocked. The mum looked at her cleavage and said New push up bra. Amazing eh? The son's friends stared at her
breasts as her son looked on with a shocked expression. The son then took a loud sip of IRN-BRU, smiled and said, Looking good mum . His friends continued to watch her as she leaned forward to clean the table. The son appeared disconcerted, then
took another sip and smiled at his mum. The mother then embraced her son against her chest. He looked uncomfortable, then drank more IRN-BRU and then smiled. The mother asked Group hug? and the friends jumped from their chairs enthusiastically,
pushing each other. The final scene showed the drink in front of two balloons with text stating IRN-BRU and GETS YOU THROUGH.
b. The same ad appeared on the IRN-BRU YouTube channel, the AOL website before a news bulletin and on a Video on Demand (VOD) service (STV).
176 complaints were received. Most complaints related to ad (a) and four related to ad (b).
Most complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive and irresponsible, because they considered that the scenario between the mother and young men was sexual and inappropriate.
Some complainants challenged whether the ads were sexist and demeaning to women.
Some viewers challenged whether ad (a) was inappropriately scheduled at a time when children could have been viewing.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
Investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 1.2 & 1.3 (Responsible advertising), 4.1 and 4.2 (Harm and offence).
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the characters in the ads were all adults who were over the age of consent. We considered that the action in the ads did not rely on the mum actively or overtly flirting with her son's friends in a manner designed to actively sexually
attract them or form a sexual relationship with them, but was focused on the son's embarrassment that his friends were showing an attraction to his mother, whilst she behaved as if she was unaware of the effect her manner of dress and actions were having
on those around her. Although we acknowledged that some behaviour, such as the mum's offer of a group hug , might suggest that she was conscious of the effect her manner of dress was having on the group, we considered that the purpose of her
actions was to form the basis of the humour in the ads, which was driven by the surreal notion that the son's embarrassment could be countered by drinking IRN-BRU. We therefore considered that most viewers would interpret the situation as surreal and
using tongue in cheek humour, rather than as depicting realistic and sexually inappropriate behaviour on the part of the mum.
Although we noted that some complainants had interpreted the action in the ads as portraying an inappropriate relationship between the mum and the son's friends, we did not consider that their interaction was a portrayal of irresponsible behaviour.
Therefore, although we acknowledged that some viewers had found the ads' humour distasteful, we did not consider that the ads portrayed irresponsible behaviour, nor that they were likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We therefore concluded that
the ads were not in breach of the Code.
2. Not upheld
We noted that the ads featured a woman with large breasts who was wearing a low cut top and push-up bra and involved her son's friends displaying an attraction to her appearance. We also noted that the basis of the humour and action drew particular
attention to her appearance and her breasts. However, we considered that the action relied on the mum being confident and attractive, but not consciously or overtly behaving in a sexualised or flirtatious way. We also considered that the focus of the ads
was the son's embarrassment at the effect his mum's appearance was having on his friends. The humour was based on the surreal notion of using IRN-BRU to counter that embarrassment. Therefore, and particularly in the context of ads intended to portray a
surreal and light-hearted comedic approach, we did not consider that the action or depiction of the female protagonist was sexist or demeaning and concluded that the ads were not in breach of the Code.
3. Not upheld
We noted that ad (a) was subject to an ex kids restriction which prevented the ads from being broadcast in or around programmes directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children. Although we considered that younger children would be
unlikely to understand the basis of the humour and innuendo used in the ad, we did not consider that the content was overtly sexualised or was inappropriate to be seen by children, particularly when watching with adults. We therefore concluded that the
ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.