A regional press ad for The Breakfast Club cafe, advertising Christmas meals, seen in the Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper on 9 November 2015. The ad featured a cartoon snowman that held a carrot which pointed out from the groin area and two
pixilated reindeer that appeared to be mating. Issue
The complainant, whose five-year-old child saw the ad, challenged whether:
the ad was offensive; and
was irresponsibly targeted.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA welcomed Brighton & Hove Independent's assurance that they would not print similar ads in future. We noted that the image of the snowman was very prominent in the
ad and it appeared the carrot was positioned in order to resemble an erect penis. We also considered that that image, together with the smaller image of the two reindeer, that appeared to be mating, conveyed a sexual tone to the ad.
We understood that the Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper was freely distributed and could therefore be picked-up by consumers within the distribution area. We therefore considered that it was likely to be seen by a wide
audience range including children. Furthermore, we understood that the complainant had been browsing through the newspaper with their five-year-old child who was likely to have seen the ad.
We therefore concluded that the overtly
sexualised tone of the ad, seen in an untargeted medium, was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and it was irresponsible because of its placement in a freely available newspaper.
The ad must not appear again in its
current form. We told Catsteps Cafes Ltd t/a The Breakfast Club to ensure their ads were not overtly sexual when published in an untargeted medium.
Identical video ads on the website www.mulberry.com and on YouTube, seen in November 2015, promoted Mulberry handbags. Both ads showed a man giving a woman a Mulberry handbag as a gift in scenes reminiscent of the Christmas Nativity story. Issue
Forty-two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians because it replaced the baby Jesus with a handbag. The complainants objected that it undermined central messages of their faith; that the important scene was
being used for the purpose of consumerism; and that it was blasphemous.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad was based on the bible story of the birth of the baby Jesus in a
stable, and the visits by the shepherds and the wise men bearing gifts. We noted that the ad had appeared in the month before Christmas and that the complainants had found the use of religious references for commercial aims offensive. We noted that the
ad began with the man giving the woman a gift with the words, I know we weren't doing presents this year, but ... , which we considered suggested a modern-day, present-giving context for what followed. Later on, after the shepherds and wise men
had admired the bag, the man said, Guys, it's only a bag , which we considered was likely to be interpreted by viewers as referring to the playful and ridiculous nature of the comparison with the Nativity story, and was more likely to be seen
as a humorous reference to consumerism than ridiculing the story. We acknowledged that the ad might not be to everyone's taste, but considered most viewers would understand it as a light hearted take on the Nativity story, intended to poke fun at the
effect of consumerism on Christmas rather than mocking or denigrating Christian belief. Because of that, we considered the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Three ads in The Sun promoted a competition which invited readers to submit an image of their cleavage for the chance to win £1,000 and a photoshoot:
a. The first ad appeared on a double-page spread with a number of images of celebrities in underwear or clothing that accentuated their breasts. Text at the top of the page stated JOIN IN THE SUN CLEAVAGE WEEK & YOU COULD
WIN Â£1,000 and a headline in the middle stated BUST IN BRITAIN? . Each celebrity image featured their name, age and bra size. Under the heading HOW TO ENTER text stated Reckon you've got a cleavage that will put these fab figures in
the shade? Then enter our great competition and you could land yourself Â£1,000 and a shoot with a Sun photographer. Just take a snap of yourself in an outfit that best shows off your bust. Then visit the website address below for details of how to
submit your picture .
b. The second ad appeared on a page headed GUESS THE CELEBRITY PAIRS which featured a number of images of celebrities' cleavages, cropped to exclude their faces, and captions underneath giving
a clue as to their identity. Under the heading HOW TO ENTER text stated IS your cleavage up there with the bust of them? If so, enter our photo competition to win Â£1,000 and a shoot with a Sun photographer. Just take a snap of yourself in an
outfit that best shows off your assets and upload it at the address shown below .
c. The third ad appeared on a page headed WELL, THEY SAID PAGE 3 WAS HISTORY... which included images of paintings of historic
women, such as Anne of Cleves, which emphasised their cleavages. Under the heading HOW TO ENTER text stated SEND your photo to www.thesun.co.uk/cleavage for a chance to win Â£1,000 and a photoshoot with a Sun photographer . Issue
The campaign group Object, who believed that the competition promoted the objectification of women, challenged whether the ads were offensive.
Assessment: Complaint not upheld
considered that the images and accompanying text in the ads were intrinsically linked to the terms of the competition, which was a sales promotion, and therefore were within our remit.
We noted the ads promoted a competition in
which readers were invited to send photos of their cleavages to win a cash prize and a photoshoot, and that the images used were ones in which women's breasts were accentuated and cleavages visible. We also noted that some of the comments that
accompanied the images were intended to be humorous and tongue-in-cheek. For example, the image of Kim Kardashian featured a comment stating Best known for her behind, but kleavage is kinda klassy too and the image of Jennifer Lopez featured a
comment stating Lo-cut frock shows this star's assets to perfection .
We noted that the ads did not feature nudity and were not overtly sexual, and we considered the tone was light-hearted. We also noted that the ads were
targeted exclusively to readers of The Sun newspaper and considered that they were in keeping with editorial material and images that regularly featured in the publication. Therefore, while we acknowledged that some consumers might find the concept of a
competition inviting women to submit pictures of their cleavages distasteful or offensive, we considered that the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to the audience targeted. We therefore concluded that the ads did not breach the
A radio ad for Co-op heard in August 2015 stated, Suns out, garden chair, drinks. In-laws, great, drinks. Cricket, wicket, drinks. At your local Co-op selected spirits are just £13 each. Little, often, Co-op. Participating
stores, subject to availability. 70cl, ends 1st September. Please drink responsibly.
One listener objected that inclusion of the slogan Little, often, Co-op in conjunction with an ad for alcohol products was irresponsible.
The ASA challenged whether the ad was
irresponsible because the repetition of the word drinks could condone or encourage immoderate drinking.
The Co-op said that as a convenience retailer they used the slogan Little. Often. Co-op to refer to the shopping habits of their customers. They used it across their brand communications to promote a variety of products
but it was never used to refer to consumption of those products.
Radiocentre said that it would be clear to the majority of listeners that the use of the slogan related to how customers used Co-op for their shopping,
rather than relating to the drinks referenced in the ad.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA considered that many listeners, although not all, would be familiar with the slogan Little.
Often. Co-op . We did not consider that it was inherently problematic to use the slogan in an ad for alcohol, but that it needed to be considered in the context of the particular ad. In this case the ad included reference to three brief scenarios
followed by drinks , which we considered would be understood by listeners to refer to the consumption of alcohol. The scenarios were all spoken by the same person and, in combination with the use of the slogan and fact the ad was for spirits, we
considered that the ad implied it was desirable to drink frequently. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Co-operative Group Ltd to take care when
using the slogan Little. Often. Co-op in ads for alcohol to ensure they did not condone or encourage immoderate drinking.
A poster promoting a Halloween event, seen in various locations around Norfolk in September and October 2015, stated, PRIMEVIL. SCREAMING WON'T HELP! ... 5 FRIGHTENING ATTRACTIONS! ... 13 NIGHTS OF TERROR! , and included an image of a clown with a
painted white face. The clown's eyes were bright red with dark circles around which contained stitches. Its forehead also contained a number of stitches, and blood dripped from various parts of its face, including its mouth, which was black and appeared
to have been cut open. It also wore a blood-stained ruff.
Twenty-three complainants, many of whom considered the image too distressing for children, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause fear or distress, and was therefore
inappropriate for outdoor display in an untargeted medium.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA noted that the ad had appeared on untargeted outdoor poster sites, and that a number of the
complainants had reported their children becoming very distressed on seeing the image. We acknowledged that Norfolk Dinosaur Park Ltd had removed a number of the posters following complaints having been received directly by them.
We noted that the clown was leaning towards the camera and grinning with a menacing expression, that its eyes glowed red and blood dripped down its face, and that its eyes and forehead were stitched. We considered that the overall presentation of the image was likely to distress young children, particularly but not only in combination with the text
PRIMEVIL. SCREAMING WON'T HELP! -- which was presented as though it was written in blood -- and that it was unsuitable for display in an untargeted medium where it was likely to be seen by them.
We considered the ad was
likely to cause fear or distress without justifiable reason when displayed in an untargeted medium, and concluded that it had been irresponsibly targeted.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Norfolk Dinosaur
Park Ltd to ensure that their marketing was responsibly targeted and did not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.
In line with its strategic aim to have more impact and be more proactive in how it regulates, the ASA is to start putting a stronger focus on those issues where there is the greatest potential detriment or harm. This will allow it to have the biggest
impact on the issues that matter most, benefitting consumers, society and responsible advertisers alike.
In February the ASA announced the introduction of new Prioritisation Principles to guide its work. The principles were
developed to help it decide what resource it should commit, or activity it should undertake, in response to issues identified through complaints (and other channels). From Monday, 23 November, it will be using those principles to help it decide when it
will investigate issues that potentially break the rules and when it can deal with the issues by other means.
It's important to stress that, where a complaint indicates the rules have been broken, the ASA will always act. It has
always varied its approach to complaint handling depending on the nature of the issues raised, resolving cases informally where possible and in so doing avoiding the lengthier process of formal investigation. However, it will now be making greater use of
advice and guidance as an alternative to its existing investigation processes to help advertisers stick to the rules. The ASA is confident that responsible advertisers will follow that advice, and it's important that they do.
complainants and advertisers won't be affected by this policy because the best course of action in many cases will still be to deal with complaints as before, either by informal resolution with an advertiser or by a formal ASA ruling. Where this new
policy does apply to a complaint, the ASA will write to the advertiser and complainant explaining its decision and the action it has taken.
By introducing the option of writing to advertisers who have potentially broken the rules
instead of initiating an investigation, the ASA has developed an approach that allows it to act proportionately in response to complaints received whilst freeing up the time it needs to focus on the issues that matter most. Those issues might be dealt
with through a formal investigation or by other means, such as sector wide work, as it continues to develop the processes needed to become a more proactive regulator.
A tweet and videos that appeared on the advertiser's website (as a pre-roll ad on YouTube and on the advertiser's YouTube channel) promoting wine, were seen between 12 August 2015 and 4 September 2015.
a). The tweet from the Premier Estates Wine Twitter account, dated 11 August, stated Tweet 'I want to #TasteTheBush' and you could wine [sic] a case of wine!... . The tweet also included an image of a woman, from
her chest to her mid-thigh, standing behind a table on which a glass of red wine was resting directly in front of her crotch. Overlaid text stated #TasteTheBush .
b). The website for Premier Estates Wines
www.premierestates.co.uk included a video on the News page of the site as part of a post entitled We Invite You to #TasteTheBush . It featured a woman in a kitchen holding a glass of red wine and talking about the positive attributes of
Premier Estates Australian wines. After she had taken a sip she stated Luscious, earthy, bursting with fruit and spice. Australia practically jumps out of the glass . She then placed the glass on the table in front of her, directly in front of her
crotch, before continuing In fact, some say you can almost taste the bush . She then looked awkwardly away from the camera before picking up her glass and walking away from the table.
c) The video that
appeared on the Premier Estates YouTube channel was identical to ad (b).
d) A pre-roll ad on YouTube, was identical to ad (b). Issue
The ASA received eight complaints.
Five complainants, including Wine Australia, a statutory body within Australia whose role included promoting the consumption and sale of Australian wine overseas, challenged whether the ads (b) and (c) were offensive, because
they were sexist and degrading towards women.
One complainant challenged whether ad (a) was offensive, for the same reasons.
Three complainants, including Alcohol Concern,
challenged whether the ads were in breach of the Code because they linked alcohol with sexual activity.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA considered that most viewers would understand the claim ... some say you can almost taste the bush to be a reference to oral
sex, particularly given that it was accompanied with the image of the wine glass positioned directly in front of the woman's crotch. The line appeared towards the end of the ad and, in conjunction with the image, which emphasised the sexual connation,
created the final impression left by the ad. While the woman was immediately aware of the double-entendre and seemingly only mildly embarrassed as a result, we considered that it served to undermine her as, until that point, she had been portrayed as
confident and in control while discussing the merits of the wine, in what appeared to be a relaxed and informal party atmosphere. For that reason, we considered that the ad presented the woman in a degrading manner, and concluded that it was likely to
cause serious or widespread offence.
We noted that the ad included a still from the video, which only showed the woman's arms and torso, with a glass of red wine resting on a table directly in
front of her crotch, and the text #TasteTheBush overlaid. While we understood the claim was intended to be tongue-in-cheek and could be construed to relate to the qualities of Australian wine, as stated in point 1 above, we considered that
recipients would understand the dual meaning and the clear reference to oral sex. We considered that the cropped image which concealed the woman's face accompanied by text that was also referring to her genitalia and oral sex, served to reduce the woman
to merely a sexual object. In light of that, we considered that the ad presented the woman in a degrading manner and was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Further, we considered that the fact recipients of the tweet were encouraged to
re-tweet the claim themselves to partake in a competition was likely to amplify any offence caused. For those reasons we concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.
We considered that
consumers would understand the claim #TasteTheBush , particularly when accompanied with an image of a woman standing behind a wine glass, which emphasised her crotch, to be a double-entendre referring to both Australian red wine, and female
genitalia and oral sex. We also noted that the ads clearly promoted an alcoholic product and that an image of a glass of red wine was featured in each ad. Because the ads clearly referenced oral sex and featured an alcoholic product, we concluded that
they linked alcohol with sexual activity and were in breach of the Code.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Premier Estates Wine to ensure their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence and to
ensure they did not link alcohol with sexual activity in future.
Two TV ads and a cinema ad promoted a hostel company, Hostelworld:
a. The first ad featured young adults walking through a forest before jumping naked into an open water pool. One man jumped from the top of a high cliff into the pool.
b. A shorter version of the same
ad included the same scene of the man jumping into the pool.
c. The cinema ad was identical to ad (b).
Twenty complainants, who believed the ads depicted a practice known as tombstoning - jumping from cliffs into water - which they understood was very dangerous and could result in serious injury and death, challenged whether the
ads condoned or encouraged a dangerous practice.
Hostelworld.com Ltd said the ads did not depict or encourage the act of tombstoning , which they said was the dangerous practice of people jumping into water from cliffs or
other high points without prior knowledge of the potential dangers, such as the depth of the water, rocks below or strong currents in the water. They said the ad was filmed at the Ik Kil cenote in Mexico, a popular site of natural beauty which was open
to the public for swimming, and was part of a bigger complex for tourists. They said the cenote had signs which stated that the depth of the water was over 50 metres. They said many visitors jumped into the water from an elevated platform that had been
carved into the rock especially for that purpose, which was clearly depicted in the ad, along with the staircase used to climb up to it. They said that was intentional, and they felt it was a clear indication that the activity was safe and appropriate to
do in that area, unlike tombstoning which involved jumping into the unknown.
Responding in relation to ad (c), the Cinema Advertising Association said they were aware of the dangers of tombstoning and had frequently removed
such visuals from other advertising where they were shown as casual, spontaneous acts. They had taken the view that this was not the case in the Hostelworld ad. There were a number of elements that led them to believe that the tombstoning shown in
the ad would comply with the CAP Code. First, the participants shown were young adults, not children. Second, the group was shown jumping into the water from a ledge only three to four metres above the water level. Third, the individual who jumped from
the potentially dangerous height only did so after being visibly assured by the group already in the water that he could do so, as they would be aware of the adequate depth of the water in which they were swimming.
Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA understood that a number of people had been killed or seriously injured in the UK as a result of tombstoning , which involved jumping from cliffs or rocks into the sea, or other body of
water, without the use of safety equipment or precautions, and considered it was important that ads did not condone or encourage such an unsafe practice.
We understood that the cenote, or water sinkhole, depicted in the ads was
over 50 metres deep and was a tourist attraction at which jumpers were likely to be supervised. However, we considered that most viewers would not be familiar with the location, and noted that there was nothing in the ads themselves which demonstrated
the depth of the water, or that the group shown were being supervised. We noted that there did not appear to be anyone present other than those in the group, and considered that viewers would infer that the group were taking part in a spontaneous
activity with no supervision.
We considered that, in the shots of the group jumping together, it was clear that they were jumping from a reasonably low height. Further, there were steps carved into the rock leading to a ledge,
which suggested that it was a suitable place from which to jump. We noted that one of the jumpers was concerned about diving, but none of them seemed uncomfortable about jumping in. However, in the scene which showed the main male character jumping from
a much higher position, no steps or ledge were apparent. We considered that the length of the fall could have been dangerous, and that there was a risk of injury if the jump was emulated, particularly if it was done in a location which was not
specifically designed for such activities.
We noted that the man seemed apprehensive about jumping, but was encouraged to do so by the rest of the group, who shouted Jump, jump, jump! and beckoned with their hands. He
subsequently decided to jump, shouting as he fell. Once the man had jumped, the group was heard cheering, before he was hugged by one of them. In addition, he was shown speaking to a woman in the group, with whom he had shared a brief and awkward smile
prior to the jump. We considered that the encouragement from the group in response to his apprehension, and their subsequent reaction, suggested that the man's behaviour was brave and admirable, and that the group's respect for him had increased as a
result. Therefore, we considered that the man was being presented in a more positive light for having done something which might be considered dangerous.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ads were likely to condone or
encourage a dangerous practice.
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Hostelworld.com Ltd to ensure that future ads did not condone or encourage dangerous practices.
A press ad promoted the charity Karma Nirvana . The ad featured an image of a woman with a transparent plastic bag over her head. Her eyes were closed and her mouth open. Text stated RememberShafilea SHAFILEA AHMED WAS
BRUTALLY SUFFOCATED BY HER OWN PARENTS IN AN 'HONOUR' KILLING ... To preserve her memory we have a 3D printer set to create a sculpture of Shafilea in response to your tweets of support using #RememberShafilea .
ASA received six complaints:
all of the complainants challenged whether the image of a woman being suffocated was distressing; and
one of the complainants challenged whether the ad condoned or encouraged an unsafe
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered that most viewers would believe the image was intended to represent a young woman in the midst of being
suffocated. While her mouth was open, as though she were gasping for breath, we noted that her eyes were closed, and considered that the image, in and of itself, was not overly graphic or violent. We considered, however, that a number of readers would
find the idea of referring to, or portraying, the murder of a young woman to be shocking and upsetting. We noted that the text in the ad made clear the intention behind the ad and explained that the charity wished to raise awareness of honour based
violence and ensure that the victims of such abuse were remembered. In particular, we understood that the campaign was focused on promoting the memory of Shafilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old woman who had been murdered by her parents in an honour based killing,
in 2003. We considered that the explanatory text regarding the purpose of the campaign put the image into context and concluded that, when considered as a whole, the ad was unlikely to cause unjustifiable distress.
2. Not upheld
We understood that the complainant was concerned that children who viewed the ad could be encouraged to emulate the image. We acknowledged that the ad depicted dangerous behaviour and that if a child did try to replicate the image
they were at risk of causing themselves significant harm.
We understood that the Metro was targeted at adults, but that it was freely available to pick up at stations and on public transport. Therefore, we understood that children
old enough to travel on their own, or those escorted by an adult, could easily pick up and peruse a free copy. We considered that, for those children old enough to read and understand it, the text explaining the campaign emphasised the serious and
dangerous implications of such behaviour, and clearly portrayed it in a negative light. While we acknowledged that younger children might be less aware of the dangers of playing with plastic bags and were unlikely to understand the text or purpose of the
campaign, we noted that the ad was very sombre and was unlikely to appeal to younger children or attract their attention. Similarly, we did not consider that the ad presented the activity in a positive light or as a fun thing to do. We also considered
that any younger children who did see the ad were unlikely to do so without the supervision of an adult, who could, if necessary, explain the risks of such behaviour.
Because we understood that the Metro had a predominantly adult
readership and we did not consider that the ad had particular appeal to children or presented the activity in a positive light, we concluded that the ad did not condone or encourage an unsafe practice.