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ASA Watch

2016: Jan-March

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Taboo word...

Advert censor bans posters for fashion brand as the name includes the world child

Link Here30th March 2016

Two poster ads displayed on bus shelters, for the clothing brand Nobody's Child, seen in November 2015:

  • a. One ad featured a female model wearing a black jumpsuit and heeled shoes, sitting on the arm of a sofa with one leg bent in front of her resting on the sofa and her arms in a relaxed position. She was looking at the camera. Text stated nobody' .

  • b. The other ad featured the same model wearing a tartan dress, sitting on a chair facing towards the camera. One leg was slightly raised. Text stated nobody' .

The ASA received three complaints.

  1. The complainants, who believed the poses and facial expressions of the model sexualised someone who they considered appeared to be a child, challenged whether the ads were irresponsible and offensive.

  2. One complainant additionally challenged whether the ads were irresponsible and offensive because they believed the images, in conjunction with the brand name Nobody's Child , implied the images were of a vulnerable child.

1. & 2. Nobody's Child Ltd t/a nobody' said they appreciated that visual imagery was open to personal interpretation, but considered the model in the ads was not sexualised and would not be perceived as being a child or vulnerable. They said the model was 21 years old and they had chosen not to style her in heavy makeup or bright lipstick in order to avoid projecting any kind of vulgarity.

They said the name Nobody's Child was intended to reflect the feeling their target audience experienced, that they were no longer children and were now their own person. They said the name was, therefore, recognition that their target audience had reached an age where they could make their own decisions and be their own people, rather than conveying vulnerability.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

1. & 2. Upheld

The ASA noted that while the model was fully clothed in both ads, in ad (a) her breast was partially exposed. She leaned casually against a wall with one leg resting up on a sofa armrest, and looked directly into the camera with her mouth partially open. In ad (b) she sat in an over-sized chair with one leg slightly raised and her hands loosely clasped together, looking directly toward the camera. We considered that her poses and gaze in both ads were mildly sexually suggestive, and that her pose in ad (b) in particular also suggested vulnerability.

We understood the model featured in the ads was 21 years of age but considered she appeared younger, and that when shown in conjunction with the prominent brand name nobody' , would be regarded as appearing to be a child. In that context, we considered that the model's poses implied vulnerability and sexual precocity. We therefore concluded the ads portrayed a model who appeared to be a child in a way that was sexually suggestive and could be perceived as being vulnerable. We concluded that the ads were irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Nobody's Child Ltd t/a nobody' to ensure the images used in their ads, particularly when presented in conjunction with their brand name, did not sexualise those who appeared to be a child and depict them as being vulnerable.



Daily Mail targeted at aged readers, not youngsters...

Daily Mail let off by the advert censor for trailing a 15 rated ghost film before a One Direction music video

Link Here 24th March 2016

a. A pre-roll video ad for the certificate 15 film Paranormal Activity - The Ghost Dimension , seen on 21 October 2015, on the Mail Online website, before a clip relating to the boy band One Direction.

b. The same ad was seen on a playlist of pre-selected Disney and music lyric videos accessed via the Vevo app on an Apple TV.

The complainant, who believed the ads appeared before content likely to appeal to children, challenged whether the ads were responsibly targeted. parental controls that could have prevented the ad from being shown were available on the Apple TV device.

ASA Assessment: Complaint not upheld

We understood that the ad was for a certificate 15 film. We noted that the ad contained screams of a young girl who appeared to be possessed, with visuals that suggested supernatural activity and atmospheric music. We considered that the ad was serious in tone and that, while it would not cause fear or distress to older people (including the target demographic of 15- to 24-year-olds), it was unsuitable for display before content under 15s were likely to be watching.

We understood that Paramount Pictures utilised a targeting strategy where the ad was served on music content that had been shown to be popular with 15 to 24-year-olds. Examples of artists used to target consumers included One Direction, Beyonce and Selena Gomez. We noted that the ad was further targeted by only being served to those with an online profile that indicated they were over the age of 15.

We understood that ad (a) appeared before a clip about the popular boyband One Direction. Although we acknowledged that the group were popular with people of various ages, including under 15s, we considered that the Mail Online contained current affairs content that was not likely to appeal to children, and that ad (a) had therefore not been irresponsibly targeted before that clip on the site.

We understood ad (b) was served before videos in a playlist that the complainant had created within her own Apple account. We understood that her playlist was likely to have been targeted because it featured videos by the selected artists and because she was signed into her Apple TV account which indicated she was over 15. We noted that the ad had appeared before videos from artists who would be popular with people of various ages, including under 15s, but that they appealed primarily to the target demographic of 15- to 24-year-olds. As such, we did not consider that the ad was placed within content specifically aimed at children or likely to appeal to them particularly.

For those reasons, we concluded that the ads had not been irresponsibly targeted.



ASA's Top Ten Ads for 2015...

As determined by those which best wind up the easily offended

Link Here25th February 2016

The advert censors at ASA have published 2015's Top 10 most complained about ads

ASA notes that while these ads drew complaints about harm and offence, 75% of its caseload is made up of complaints about misleading ads. Guy Parker, ASA Chief Executive, said

Our Top 10 for 2015 will no doubt get people talking about whether the ads are or aren't offensive, but there are important issues at stake here. Advertisers must take care not to cause serious or widespread offence, but we don't play a number's game. And while matters of offence can grab the headlines, the bulk of our work is the less glamorous task of tackling misleading advertising. That's why we're taking a more proactive approach to address the issues which affect consumers the most before complaints need to be made.

2015's most complained about ads are: 

1. Ltd

1,513 complaints -- Not upheld

A TV and internet ad featured a man walking down a street and dancing whilst wearing denim shorts and high heeled shoes. We received complaints that the ad was offensive. Many complainants thought this was due to the man's clothing and dance moves and because they believed the content was overtly sexual. While acknowledging that some viewers might have found the ad distasteful, we did not judge the ad to be offensive and in breach of the Code.

 2. BV

683 complaints -- Not upheld

This TV and cinema ad prompted complaints that the ad was offensive and encouraged bad language amongst children by using the word "booking" in place of a swear word. We did not uphold the complaints, judging that it was a light hearted play on words that couldn't be mistaken for an actual swear word. We also ruled that the ad was unlikely to encourage swearing amongst children; any children that did pick up on the joke were unlikely to have learned bad language through the ad itself.

 3. Paypal (UK) Ltd

464 complaints -- Not upheld

Two children in Paypal's Christmas ad which appeared on TV and Video-on-Demand (VOD) were worried that their parents hadn't been shopping for Christmas Presents. Complaints expressed concern that the ad revealed the truth about Father Christmas. We did not uphold the complaints. Independently, Paypal changed the scheduling of its commercial.

 4. BV

407 complaints -- Not upheld

Complainants found this TV ad featuring a man sitting on a boat before jumping off and swimming ashore, offensive due to its use of the word "booking". Consistent with the previous ruling, we judged that the content of the ad was a light hearted play on words that couldn't be mistaken for an actual swear word and that the ad did not break the advertising rules.

 5. Protein World Ltd

380 complaints - Not upheld

Before investigating complaints that a poster featuring a woman in a bikini was offensive, the ASA told Protein World that, due its ASA's concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims, the ad could not appear again in its current form. The ASA concluded, however, that that ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

6. British Heart Foundation

219 complaints -- Not upheld

We received complaints about a British Heart Foundation TV, VOD and cinema ad which showed a boy sitting in a classroom talking to his dad who had died from a heart attack. Complainants considered the ad to be distressing for adults and children to see. We noted that the ad had been scheduled to not appear around children's programming. We also recognised that some people might find the ad upsetting but judged it was unlikely to cause widespread distress.

 7. BV

201 complaints -- Not upheld's TV and VOD ad showed a story of a couple who met at a hotel. Complainants thought the word "booking" in the ad had been substituted in place of a swear word and thought it was offensive. Consistent with our previous decisions, we judged that the content of the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

 8. Department of Health

181 complaints -- Not upheld

A TV and VOD ad, which was part of an anti-smoking campaign from Public Health England, showed a man rolling a cigarette, which had blood and flesh inside it. A poster ad also showed a cigarette which contained flesh. We received complaints that the ads were graphic and gruesome and were therefore offensive and irresponsible. We acknowledged that some people might find the ads unsettling but noted that they also contained an important health message. We concluded that the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

9. Nicocigs Ltd

145 complaints -- Not upheld

We received complaints about a TV ad for an electronic cigarette. Many objected that the advertising of e-cigarettes was allowed and many thought the ad was appealing to children. Strict advertising rules for e-cigarettes were introduced in 2014 following a public consultation. We also noted that the ad wasn't scheduled around programming that was likely to appeal to children and the ad's style was not appealing to them. On that basis we judged that the ad did not break the advertising rules.

 10. Omega Pharma Ltd

136 complaints -- Upheld (this figure relates to 2015 complaints only, more complaints were received in 2016)

A TV, YouTube and VOD ad for XLS Medical, a slimming aid, featured two women exchanging text messages before heading on holiday. After seeing a photo of her friend who had lost weight, the other woman in the ad was unhappy about not being able to fit into her holiday wardrobe. We banned the ad because it presented an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence.



ASA gets even more politically correct...

Pro censorship campaigner Reg Bailey becomes advert censor

Link Here19th February 2016
The UK advert censor has appointed the pro-censorship campaigner Reg Bailey, who led the government's review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, to the council that decides whether to ban advertisements.

Bailey, the former chief executive of the Mothers' Union, will join the Advertising Standards Authority's council of 13 members. Bailey crowed:

Having direct and indirect experience of the ASA throughout my career, both as a marketer and a campaigner for children's rights, I've admired its commitment to and effectiveness in tackling misleading, harmful or irresponsible advertising.

ASA chairman, Chris Smith spouted:

One of our priorities is to protect children from inappropriate content, ensuring that the ads they see and hear are responsible. Reg's background in marketing allied with his expertise on children's wellbeing and issues that impact on young people will further enhance Council's discussions in this area.



Miserable Phuckers...

ASA dismisses miserable whinges about a Phat Phuc event at a Vietnamese restaurant

Link Here12th February 2016

Two posters for a noodle bar seen on a train on 19 October and at a train station on 13 November featured text that stated, GET YOUR NOODLE ON! FIRST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH FOUR DELICIOUS NOODLE BASED DISHES . The posters also showed two slogans with text that stated PHAT PHUC ...THE HANOI BIKE SHOP .

The ASA received complaints from two members of the public:

  1. one complainant objected that the ad was offensive because it featured a slogan, which when spoken sounded like a swearword; and

  2. one complainant objected that the ad was inappropriate for public display where children could see it because it featured a slogan that sounded like a swearword when spoken.

Hanoi Bike Shop stated that they were a Vietnamese canteen and that Phat Phuc was the name of an event that had been running since March 2015 and was also used for naming some of their noodle dishes. They clarified that Phat Phuc in Vietnamese was pronounced Fet Fook and meant Happy Buddha.

ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld

1. Not upheld

The ASA understood that the word happy in Vietnamese was correctly spelt as Phuc and although it was pronounced as Fook, we acknowledged that it sounded similar to the expletive fuck.

However, we noted that the Hanoi Bike Shop sold Far Eastern cuisine, which both posters had made sufficiently clear. In the context of the posters, we considered that viewers who might have been offended by bad language were likely to recognise that Phuc was from a reference to Southeast Asian language, was different from the expletive and would not necessarily be pronounced in the same way. We therefore, concluded that the posters were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

2. Not upheld

As mentioned above, we acknowledged that while the expletive had not been used, the two words, depending on the pronunciation, might sound similar. However, we considered that younger children who were unlikely to comprehend that Phuc was a Vietnamese word were also unlikely to read or pronounce it as the expletive. While some older children might have pronounced it as the expletive, given the context of an ad for a Vietnamese restaurant and that the word was taken from this language we did not consider that this made it unsuitable for them to see. We therefore concluded that the posters were not irresponsibly placed where children could see them.



Heartstopping Distress...

Advert censor bans crimestoppers advert banned over bloody image of heart

Link Here29th January 2016

A Poster for Crimestoppers, seen on the station platform and on a phone box in Rugby, on 29 October and 16 November 2015 respectively, stated BREAK YOUR SILENCE Don't let drugs and violence rip the heart out of your community and included an image of bloodied hands holding a heart.

Two complainants challenged whether the ad was likely to cause distress, particularly to children, and was therefore inappropriate for outdoor display in an untargeted medium.

Crimestoppers acknowledged that the artwork could be perceived as controversial and were sorry that it had caused distress. They strove to walk the line between effective and potentially difficult imagery in the artwork they used, and said the last thing they wanted to do was alienate members of the public.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The ASA noted that the image in the ad featured a human heart grasped in bloodied hands, with drips of blood running down the fingers. The image was also accompanied with the claim Don't let drugs and violence rip the heart out of your community which enhanced the impression that the heart had been ripped out of an individual's chest. We considered that some individuals, particularly children, who would not necessarily understand the rationale behind the image, might find the bloody image upsetting because of its graphic nature. While we acknowledged the positive intention behind the campaign and understood that the image had been used to emphasise the serious implications of violent crime, we considered that the image was not directly relevant to crime or the overriding message of the campaign. For those reasons, we considered that the ad was likely to cause unjustifiable distress when displayed in an untargeted medium and concluded that it breached the Code.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Crimestoppers Trust to ensure their marketing did not cause undue distress in future.



Bitter whingers...

ASA dismisses complaints about Radio X advert announcing the return of Chris Moyles

Link Here28th January 2016

  Two ads for the radio station, Radio X:

  • a. A TV ad for the radio station Radio X, broadcast between September and October 2015, featured the DJ Chris Moyles walking down a street. He was shown bumping into a number of people, including a man holding a coffee, a character in a costume and a paramedic pushing someone on a stretcher, and he knocked a cake out of a woman's hand. He then walked through a wall of the Radio X studio building.

  • b. A Video On Demand (VOD) ad seen on ITV Player on 13 and 21 October 2015 was the same as ad (a)


  1. 1. Eighty-seven viewers challenged whether ad (a) was offensive and irresponsible because they believed it encouraged and condoned anti-social and violent behaviour.

  2. 2. Some viewers challenged whether ad (a) was inappropriately scheduled for broadcast at times when children may be watching.

  3. 3. Two viewers challenged whether ad (b) was offensive and irresponsible for the same reason as point 1.

ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld

1. & 3. Not upheld

The ASA understood the complainants' concerns about the behaviour shown in the ad and we acknowledged Global's intention to parody what they believed to be a well-recognised and iconic music video. Although we noted the ad used Bittersweet Symphony as its soundtrack, we considered that some viewers were still unlikely to recognise the parody element of the ad.

We considered the context in which the behaviour was shown and noted the eclectic mixture of people that Chris Moyles walked past in such a short amount of time (a business man, a charity collector, a woman holding a wedding cake and a paramedic) together with the end shot in which he was shown walking through a brick wall. While recognisable as an ordinary street, we considered the scenario in which he found himself was likely to be seen as surreal and far removed from the mix of people many were likely to encounter when walking down a street. We acknowledged that his actions in the ad were likely to be seen as unpleasant, but we considered that the context in which it was shown meant viewers were unlikely to interpret it as realistic and as an acceptable way to behave. In the particular circumstances of the ad, we concluded it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or be seen to encourage or condone anti-social behaviour or bullying.

2. Not upheld

We understood the complainants' concerns that the ad was inappropriately scheduled and noted that the ad was subject to a scheduling restriction that prevented it from being shown around and during programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16. We considered younger children were more likely to emulate the behaviour shown; however, we understood the scheduling restriction meant there was a reduced likelihood of those children seeing the ad. We considered older children were likely to recognise that the ad presented undesirable behaviour, but they were also likely to understand the fantastical nature of the ad shown through the varied mix of the people shown in the ad and the end shot of Chris Moyles emerging unscathed from the brick wall. We considered that the scheduling restriction applied was appropriate for the content and therefore, we concluded the ad had not been scheduled inappropriately.



Turbo Charged Offence...

ASA whinge at advert on games website Twitch for the film Turbo Kid

Link Here27th January 2016

A trailer for the film Turbo Kid , shown in-stream during a Twitch broadcast of the League of Legends World Championships on 10 October 2015, featured scenes from the film. These included: a circular saw blade being shot into a man's face, another being shot into a woman's chest, several decapitated heads on poles, people exploding into gore, a man's jaw being ripped off and the top of a man's head being cut off.

A complainant, who believed the ad's content was excessively gory, challenged whether the ad was distressing and offensive.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ASA understood that League of Legends (LoL) was a game with broad appeal and that its style of play was fantastical and somewhat cartoonish, with no particularly explicit violence or depictions of gore. We considered that the imagery in the ad was significantly different to the content during which it appeared and likely to cause distress and offence to those who did not ordinarily view that type of content.

We acknowledged the statements from Lions Gate and Twitch, that they felt the ad was suitable for their audiences because adult game-players would be used to the sort of stylised violence featured within it. However, we understood that not all adult gamers and LoL viewers would play or view games with graphic violence or gore and considered that, unless they had previously viewed or sought out content of this type, users would not expect to come across material that was significantly stronger than the stream they had selected to watch. We therefore considered that, because there was such a significant difference between the type of material in the ad compared to the surrounding gameplay content, the ad should only have been targeted to users whose previous activity indicated they were comfortable with viewing such content. We understood, however, that such factors had not been taken into account in the targeting of the ad. We recognised that the ad contained material reflective of the film's content, but considered that those images were very graphic and that, unless targeted carefully, they were likely to cause unjustified distress or serious offence to some who saw the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.

The ad must not appear again in the form complained about unless appropriately targeted. We told Lions Gate International (UK) Ltd to ensure that similar future advertising did not contain significantly more graphic content than the material it was placed in or around, unless sufficient care was taken with targeting to avoid causing unjustified distress or serious offence.



Natural Born Censor...

Former government minster for feminism and political correctness appointed to ASA advisory committee

Link Here11th January 2016
Four new members, Adair Richards, Jo Swinson, Robin Foster and Ruth Sawtell, join the Advertising Advisory Committee (AAC). They will be responsible for providing advice to the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), which writes and maintains the Broadcast Advertising Codes, on the key broadcast advertising issues affecting consumers.

Established in 2005, the AAC advises BCAP on matters relating to the Broadcast Codes. The Committee ensures that the concerns of consumers, viewers and listeners are taken into account when the Codes are drafted.

Jo Swinson AACJo Swinson

Previously serving as Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, Jo oversaw the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. As Minister for Women and Equalities, she led on various high profile policy issues including body image and media representation of women.

Of their appointment, Stephen Locke, AAC Chairman said:

I'm delighted that Ruth, Robin, Adair and Jo are joining the Committee. Their extensive understanding of, and insight into, the fast-changing consumer and media landscape will ensure a strong consumer voice in the formulation of broadcast advertising regulation. I greatly look forward to working with them, and with the two members of the previous Committee who will be continuing in their role -- Alison Goodman and Claire Whyley

The new members succeed Angela McNab, John Bradford, Michaela Jordan who served on the Committee for six years and Colin Cameron, who served for seven years.

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