a. The first ad, seen in the BBC Good Food Guide app on 13 April 2020, featured images including a naked mannequin wearing a cape, a woman shown from the neck down wearing a corset that partially exposed her breasts and revealed
nipple tassels, and an image of a reclining woman from the waist down wearing fishnet stockings and underwear.
b. The second ad, seen in the Google News app on 22 April 2020, featured images including a woman wearing a jacket
that partially exposed her cleavage and midriff, and a woman shown from the neck down wearing a corset that partially exposed her breasts and revealed nipple tassels.
c. The third ad, seen in the Google News app on 1 May
2020, featured the same images as ad (b), and an image of a prosthetic penis alongside the text Dildo + Ass Sex Cup + Penis Sleeve ... 6cm Longer ... 4cm Bigger.
d. The fourth ad, seen in a Solitaire game on Google Play on 1
May 2020, featured the same images as ad (c), and an image of a reclining woman from the waist down wearing fishnet stockings and underwear. Issue
The ASA received three complaints:
1. three complainants, who considered that the content of the ads was sexually graphic, objected that the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence; and
2. two complainants challenged whether ads (b), (c) and (d) had been responsibly targeted because they were likely to be seen by children.
Context Logic Inc trading as Wish.com said that their ads were
comprised of content from listings provided by third-party sellers on the Wish marketplace. Wish.com used techniques to identify and remove potentially objectionable content, which included filtering based on keywords in listing titles and tags applied
to the listing. Wish.com worked with an ad partner who used filtering and other measures to prevent Wish ads from appearing in inappropriate forums.
Regarding the ads complained of, the keyword filters and image analysis used by
their ad partner was not sufficient in preventing the ads from being displayed in general audience forums. Wish.com halted UK campaigns with the ad partner in May 2020. They said that they were not currently advertising through the ad partner until they
had more confidence in their ability to identify mature content and prevent it from being shown in general audience forums. Wish.com agreed that the ads may not have been appropriate for all forums, such as those where the audience were likely to be
comprised of a large number of minors, and they were taking action to address the issue. However, they did not agree that the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
All four ads depicted a range of garments, including nipple tassels shown on exposed breasts and a cape displayed on a nude mannequin, and ads (c) and (d) depicted a sex toy. These were all available
on the Wish.com website. While the images were relevant to the products sold, the ASA considered they were overtly sexual and contained explicit nudity.
We considered that consumers using apps for recipes, the news and playing
solitaire would not expect to see sexually explicit content. We therefore concluded that in those contexts the ads were likely to cause both serious and widespread offence.
As referenced above, we
considered that the ads were overtly sexual and contained explicit nudity. We considered they therefore were not suitable to be seen by children. Ads (b) and (c) were seen in the Google News app and ad (d) was seen in a Solitaire game. We considered
that, given the content of the apps, they were likely to have a broad appeal to all ages including children, and therefore any ads that appeared within the apps should have been suitable for children.
While Wish.com and their ad
partner had used measures such as keyword filters and image analysis to try to target them to a suitable audience, it had not prevented the ads being shown in mediums where children were likely to be part of the audience. Because the ads contained
explicit sexual images and had been placed in apps that were likely to be used by children, we concluded that the ads had been placed irresponsibly and breached the Code.
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We
told Context Logic Inc t/a Wish.com to ensure that their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence and to ensure their ads were appropriately targeted.
A regional press ad for Vic Smith Beds, seen in the Enfield and Haringey Independent newspaper on 12 February 2020. The ad included a cartoon image of an upright mattress, which had a Union Jack on the front, and which was wearing a green surgical mask.
Text stated, BRITISH BUILD [sic] BEDS PROUDLY MADE IN THE UK. NO NASTY IMPORTS.
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious and widespread offence by linking concern about the ongoing coronavirus health
emergency to nationality and/or race.
ASA decision: Complaints upheld
The ad was seen in the context of widespread news coverage of a developing major outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019-nCov, or
COVID-19 (coronavirus), in China, with a small but growing number of cases having been confirmed in the UK. News outlets had also reported some groups being physically and verbally targeted because of their nationality and/or race in relation to fears
about coronavirus. The ASA understood that, in particular, a number of Asian people had reported receiving abuse as a result of wearing face masks.
The CAP Code required marketers to ensure that ads did not contain anything that
was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, with particular care to be taken to avoid causing offence on various grounds of protected characteristics, including race. We noted the reference to BRITISH BUILD [sic] beds, and the image of the Union
Jack, and we understood that the advertiser's intention was to draw attention to the fact that their beds were made in the UK. However, we also considered that the phrase NO NASTY IMPORTS, in combination with the image of the surgical mask, was likely to
be taken as a reference to the coronavirus outbreak. We considered that in combination with the image, the reference to nasty imports was likely to be read as a negative reference to immigration or race, and in particular as associating immigrants with
We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious and widespread offence. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 4.1 Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious
or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material. The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for
finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence). =
The ad must not appear again. We told Vic Smith Bedding Ltd t/a Vic Smith Beds to ensure they avoided causing serious and/or widespread offence on the
grounds of nationality or race.
a. The first poster, seen on the London Underground on 14 November 2019, featured a model wearing a pink wrap mini-dress, which showed her legs and cleavage.
b. The second poster, seen on 24 November
on a train station platform, featured the same model leaning against a side table wearing an unbuttoned jacket with nothing underneath, sheer tights and high heels.
Issue The complainants, who believed the images were overly sexualised and objectified women, challenged whether:
ad (a); and
ad (b) were offensive.
One of the complainants also challenged whether ad (a) was appropriate for display where it could be seen by children.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered that the pose adopted by the model in ad (a) was no more than mildly sexual. The wrap style of the dress and her pose, with one arm
slightly behind her, meant that it fell open just by her breast, which we considered was likely to be in keeping with how the dress would ordinarily be worn, but featured no explicit nudity. We also considered the focus of the ad was on the model in
general and on the featured dress, rather than on a specific part of her body. While we acknowledged that some people might find the ad distasteful and the clothing revealing, we considered that the ad was unlikely to be seen as overtly sexual or as
objectifying either the model in the ad or women in general and we therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
2. Upheld The model in ad (b) was wearing a blazer with nothing underneath, which
exposed the side of her breast, and which was coupled with sheer tights, sheer gloves and underwear. We considered she would be seen as being in a state of undress and that the focus was on her chest area and lower abdomen rather than the clothing being
advertised. We also noted that her head was tilted back, with her mouth slightly open, and her leg was bent and raised, which we considered was likely to be seen as a sexually suggestive pose. We considered that the sexually suggestive styling and pose
would be seen as presenting women as sexual objects. Because the ad objectified women, we concluded that ad (b) was likely to cause serious offence.
3. Not upheld Ad (a) was seen on the London Underground and we accepted that
children were likely to have seen the ad. However, for the reasons stated in point 1 above, we considered the image was not overtly sexual, and therefore concluded that it had not been placed inappropriately.
Ad (b) must not
appear again in its current form. We told Missguided Ltd not to use advertising that objectified women and which was likely to cause serious offence.
A pre-roll Youtube ad for Prettylittlething.com, a women's clothing retailer, seen on 29 October 2019. The ad opened with a woman wearing black vinyl, high waisted chaps-style knickers and a cut-out orange bra, dragging a neon bar and looking over her
shoulder. The ad proceeded to show women in seductive poses, wearing various lingerie style clothing and holding the neon bars.
A complainant, who believed the ad was overly sexualised and objectified women, challenged whether the
ad was offensive and irresponsible.
Prettylittlething.com Ltd stated that the ad highlighted how they supported and promoted diversity through bold and distinctive fashion of all shapes and sizes which focused on different trends.
They said they had not intended to create an ad which was deemed offensive and irresponsible. They said they worked hard to promote a positive and healthy body image that was inclusive and empowered women. Prettylittlething.com provided a mood board to
demonstrate the creative theory behind the ad and explained that the ad was inspired by their customers who seek the latest rave style clothing.
ASA Assessment: Upheld
The ASA noted that the ad began with
a woman looking over her shoulder in a seductive manner wearing black vinyl, high waisted chaps-style knickers which revealed her buttocks. A later scene depicted a woman wearing a transparent mesh bodysuit. The woman was lying on her side with her knee
bent up and with a neon bar in between her legs. The next scene showed a woman in a bikini top, holding the neon bar behind her shoulders in a highly sexualised pose which accentuated her breasts. The woman was then depicted crouched down with her legs
apart, wearing chaps-style trousers to reveal string bikini bottoms. We considered that the cumulative effect of the scenes meant that overall, the products had been presented in an overly-sexualised way that invited viewers to view the women as sexual
objects. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence and was irresponsible.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Prettylittlething.com Ltd not to use advertising that was likely to
cause serious offence by objectifying women.
Offsite Comment: Is the ASA run by Mary Whitehouse?