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ASA Watch

2016: April-June

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Britain's censorship landscape...

Advert censor bans lawnmower advert featuring the Etesia calendar girls

Link Here29th June 2016

An email, dated 21 October 2015, sent by on behalf of Etesia UK Ltd, a horticultural equipment company, stated Meet the Etesia Calendar Girls at SALTEX! the NEC Birmingham . The email included a picture of two pouting women wearing cut-off shorts, leaning on a motorised lawnmower. A second picture, linked to and taken from an embedded video in the email, showed the same women in their underwear with one woman holding a hedge trimmer. The embedded video, filmed at the calendar photo shoot, featured the two underwear-clad models posing on or using gardening equipment.

1. A complainant challenged whether the images in the email were offensive, because they were sexist and objectified women.

2. The ASA challenged whether the embedded video was offensive, because it was sexually suggestive and objectified women.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

1. Upheld

The ASA considered that recipients would understand that the calendar image and the video photo-shoot embedded in the email were included to publicise the models' appearance at the trade fair rather than the horticultural products sold by the advertiser. The email subject line and headline text in the body of the email both stated Meet the Etesia Calendar Girls at Saltex and included details of the trade fair. However, although the images in the email were a reasonable representation of the calendar being advertised, we nonetheless considered that some recipients were unlikely to expect such images in a marketing communication from a horticultural equipment company.

We noted the women in the first picture were wearing revealing cut-off shorts, with their bottoms pushed out and pouting directly at the camera. Although the pose was not overtly sexual, we considered that it was likely to be seen as sexually suggestive. The second picture showed the women in revealing lace underwear, with one woman holding a hedge trimmer, and text next to it stated See a 'behind-the-scenes' video of the photo shoot using the link here ... . Although the context of the image was clear, we nonetheless considered that showing the women in their underwear while using gardening equipment for no other reason than a calendar shoot, presented the women as sexual objects.

We acknowledged that the images were relevant to both the nature of the calendar and the models' appearance at the trade fair, but considered that they were likely to be seen as objectifying women and were therefore sexist. For those reasons, we concluded that the email was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.

2. Upheld

We acknowledged that the embedded video was filmed at the calendar photo shoot and was included in the email to promote the opportunity to meet the models at the trade fair, but considered that the scantily clad models had no relevance to the advertiser's products featured in the video.

The women were shown posing on or near horticultural equipment in either their underwear or bikinis, or with their tops removed, although still wearing bras. Two scenes featured the women, viewed side on, individually sitting on a lawn mower. They were wearing tops, high heel shoes and brief underpants, which revealed their buttocks. The camera zoomed into the buttock area before moving upwards. The women, both wearing skimpy underwear, appeared together on the lawn mower, one sitting with the other standing behind her, which emphasised the standing model's groin area, before the camera panned out. Towards the end of the video one of the models was briefly seen adjusting her breasts and at the end of the video the women blew kisses at the camera.

We considered that the overall impression created by the video was that it was sexual in tone with the women portrayed as sexual images and their physical features used to draw attention to the products. We considered that the video was likely to be seen as objectifying, and therefore demeaning to, women. We concluded that, because the video was sexually suggestive and degrading to women, it was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.

The email must not appear again in its current form. We told Etesia UK Ltd to ensure their ads did not cause serious offence.



Somebody spiked the Independent's ad server...

ASA bans a film streaming service advert featuring the iconic Cannibal Holocaust impalement that was seen on the Independent newspaper website

Link Here15th June 2016

An internet display ad for MUBI, a movie subscription service, seen on 4 March 2016 on, stated Cannibal Holocaust Discover Great Films on MUBI and featured a picture of a man taking a photograph of a blood covered, naked woman impaled on a wooden pole.

A complainant challenged whether the graphic nature of the picture was offensive.

MUBI Europe did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.

The Independent explained that they required their third-party ad server to block certain categories of advertising from appearing on their website, including ads containing graphic material. They understood that MUBI Europe had incorrectly categorised their ad and consequently the ad server had not prevented the ad from appearing on the website. The Independent said they had blocked MUBI Europe from placing ads on their site in the future.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ASA was concerned by MUBI Europe's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of the CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.

We understood that the image featured was a scene from the advertised horror film and was likely to be representative of the film's content. However, we considered that the degree of violence portrayed went beyond what consumers would normally expect to see in an ad for a film. The image of a blood covered, naked woman impaled by a wooden pole through her mouth, was particularly explicit and the voyeuristic nature of the man taking a photograph of the dead woman added to the overall impression of brutality.

We acknowledged that the ad appeared in error, but nonetheless concluded that the graphic nature of the image was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and was unsuitable for publication on The Independent website.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told MUBI Europe to ensure the images used in their ads did not contain graphic content that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.



You are what you see...

Advert censor bans image of 'unt' mug on website

Link Here3rd June 2016

Two ads for, an online retail website:

a. A display ad seen in March 2016 on featured a product called the UNT Two-Tone Mug and showed a picture of the mug, which had a dark blue C-shaped handle and the letters UNT printed in dark blue after it.

b. A source content widget that contained six ads run through the Taboola network, seen in March 2016, which appeared on a national news website, was headed More From The Web - Sponsored links by Taboola . Each ad linked through to the advertiser's own website. One of the ads featured the same picture as ad (a) and included a link to Rakuten's website.

The ASA received two complaints.

1. Both complainants challenged whether ad (a) was likely to cause serious offence; and

2. One complainant challenged whether ad (b) was also likely to cause serious offence.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive because they believed the ads featured an expletive. The ASA noted that although the full expletive had not been spelt out, it had used the handle of the mug to create the impression of the C which was painted dark blue The handle matched the dark blue UNT letters on the mug, contrasting with the white background. We considered consumers would therefore understand that the intended meaning of the UNT letters placed next to the C shaped handle was to spell CUNT , especially as the product was entitled the UNT Mug .

Ad (a) appeared on the website which featured content relating to BT's services and ad (b) appeared on a national news website, which included content on a large number of varying sectors and topics. We noted the content of the ads was therefore a strong juxtaposition with the content of those websites. We considered a broad range of consumers were likely to visit the websites and concluded that in that context the clear allusions to the word cunt in the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Rakuten Europe S.  r.l to take care to ensure that ads that marketed products containing expletives or allusions to expletives did not appear in contexts in which they were likely to cause serious or widespread offence.



Miserable Gits...

Advert censors ban young people enjoying themselves in Jack Willis advert

Link Here1st June 2016

A direct mailing for fashion brand Jack Wills, received on 7 February 2016, included their spring catalogue.

One page featured images of male and female models in their underwear drinking, dancing and on a bed together. Text at the top stated UNDERWEAR ... Pure and comfortable cottons, or flirty delicate laces, whatever your choice, you can be sure it's what's underneath that counts ... . Large text at the bottom stated ... midnight MISCHIEF .

Another page, promoting loungewear , featured images of male and female models on a bed. Some of the models wore loungewear, one male model was topless on a bed with a woman while reading and another woman wore a bra with a strap falling off her shoulder. Issue

A complainant challenged whether the images were unsuitable for publication in a clothing catalogue that was targeted at, and seen by, teenagers.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ASA noted that the catalogue featured images of a group of older teenagers on a weekend away, and that the images in question showed them relaxing and engaging in activities such as dancing, drinking and reading a newspaper together. Although we understood that Jack Wills' target audience was 18- to 24-year olds, and that the catalogue was sent to an adult, we considered that younger teens might have access to the ad either directly or indirectly, and that the images were likely to appeal to those readers because they portrayed a lifestyle to which they might aspire.

In several of the images the models were partially dressed or shown in their underwear. We noted that most of the garments were appropriately fitted and did not accentuate or highlight parts of their bodies in a sexualised manner, however, the images were accompanied with claims such as Flirty laces , MIDNIGHT MISCHIEF and made for the morning after the night before . Moreover, we noted that the story of the group of friends depicted them dancing and drinking while fully clothed, then dancing and drinking in their underwear, followed by an image of a woman (holding a drink) and a man next to a bed, a woman in a bra and pyjama shorts brushing her teeth while sitting facing the camera with her legs apart, and a final scene of all of the characters in their underwear in bed together. We considered that this sequence of images, in conjunction with the text, was sexually suggestive as opposed to simply being flirtatious or playful. Because we understood that younger teenagers could have both direct and indirect access to the catalogue, and because we considered the images and text were sufficiently sexualised to be inappropriate for that audience, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and that it breached the Code.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Jack Wills Ltd not to use sexualised images and text that were inappropriate for younger teenagers in ads to which those teenagers could have both direct and indirect access.



Advert Censorship in 2015...

ASA and CAP publish their Annual Report

Link Here27th May 2016
Advert Censor ASA and CAP (who write the rules) have published their Annual Report covering 2015. They issued the following press release:

ASA and CAP Annual Report 2015: The balance is shifting 26 May 2016

Figures published today [Thursday 26 May] show the changing landscape of advertising regulation continues to be dominated by online ads, with the number of internet cases standing at over double those of the second most prolific medium, TV (8,633 compared to 3,920). Meanwhile, the mass-viewing nature of TV ensured that ads on the box generated the greatest number of individual complaints from consumers (11,611), taking back the top spot from the Internet.

The league table was released today as part of our and the Committee of Advertising Practice's (CAP's) annual report. The report also shows how advertising regulation itself is changing, owing to a rebalancing from complaints-led work towards more proactive interventions in markets where consumers are facing harm. Examples include a new approach to broadband pricing, sector-wide advice for osteopaths on how to advertise responsibly, and new guidance for vloggers on the disclosure of paid-for endorsements.

Consequently, while the number of consumer complaints about ads declined by 7.9% to 29,554, 2015 was a record year in terms of the number of ads that were changed or withdrawn as a result of our regulation (4,584). While this figure has risen 32% since 2014, it still represents only a small proportion of the overall advertising landscape -- data also published today suggests fewer members of the public saw problem ads in 2015 - 17%, down from 22% in 2013.

The report also shows which sectors and media received the most complaints during 2015. Notably, complaints about ads on public transport increased 153% - primarily owing to the high-profile and controversial Are you beach body ready? ad.

The most complained about sector was Leisure (films, DVDs, computer games, gambling), with 3,932 complaints about 2,530 cases. Meanwhile, the financial sector saw a 78% rise in complaints, driven primarily by the ad featuring Dancing Dave , which was the most complained about ad of 2015.

Conversely, the alcohol sector saw complaints decline by 37% to just 118 about 90 ads.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA said:

The ASA's ambition is to make every UK ad a responsible ad and recent changes show how our regulation is becoming more proactive and having more impact. Alongside our important work resolving consumer complaints, we've taken proactive action in areas that make the biggest difference for the public. As well as the record number of ads changed or withdrawn, the volume of our compliance work has trebled to almost 5,500 cases.

The figures we've published today also show how protecting consumers, particularly children, online continues to be an urgent priority.

In 2016, we'll be implementing changes to broadband pricing, as well as examining gender discrimination in ads, and exploring ways to reduce children's exposure to ads for age-restricted products in social media.



A passion for censorship...

Advert censor bans Boylesports advert on grounds of blasphemy

Link Here19th May 2016

An email for Boylesports Gaming, dated 25 March 2016, showed a hand nailed to a length of wood. Blood dripped from where the nail entered the hand and a desert scene was shown in the background. Large text stated BOYLESPORTS GAMING - NAILED ON BONUS . Text on a sign hanging from the nail stated BETWEEN 5 - 25 QUID . Text below the image stated Hi [recipient's name] - In memory of the dearly departed JC, we are offering you a sacrilecious [sic] Bonus this Easter weekend ... So don't just sit there gorging your own body weight in chocolate, that's disrespectful. Get on Boylesports Gaming and get your nailed on bonus .

A recipient of the email, who considered that the ad depicted a crucifixion and that it mocked the Christian religion at an important time in the Christian year, challenged whether the ad was offensive.

 ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ad showed a partial image of a crucifixion with a desert scene in the background and was sent to recipients over the Easter weekend -- the complainant received it on Good Friday. The ASA considered those elements and that timing, together with the references in the text to the dearly departed JC , a sacrilecious [sic] bonus and that's disrespectful , all contributed to the impression that the image was a reference not simply to a generic, historic crucifixion but to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Given that context, we considered that the way in which the ad made light of the subject matter, with the play on words NAILED ON BONUS ; the jokey language of BETWEEN 5-25 QUID , dearly departed JC and sacrilecious Bonus , and the cartoon-style image of blood dripping from the hand pierced by the nail, a particularly sacred image for Christians, were likely to cause serious offence to some recipients. We considered the offence was likely to be particularly strongly felt by those of the Christian faith at Easter, when the imagery would have a particularly strong resonance. We considered that the ad was likely to cause serious offence and concluded that it was therefore in breach of the Code.

We welcomed Boylesports Enterprise's assurance that the ad had finished its run. The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Boylesports Enterprise to ensure future ads did not cause serious or widespread offence.



Censor Bait...

Advert censor bans sexy advert for Baitcraft fishing bait

Link Here18th May 2016

A magazine ad for Baitcraft fish bait seen in Carp World magazine on 4 March 2016. The ad featured the body of a woman lying on her side wearing a bra and stockings, with her thigh and torso exposed. The woman appeared to be removing her underwear, with her right hand placed on her thigh, and her thumb between her underwear and skin.

A complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive, because the image was demeaning to women, and bore no relationship to the product advertised.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ASA noted that the ad focused on the physical features of a woman who was wearing lingerie and whose head was not visible. The image bore no relevance to the advertised product and was accompanied by text that stated it's never looked so good . We considered readers would understand that the woman was being referred to as the it in that sentence and that they would consider the text, in conjunction with the image, presented an objectified view of, and was therefore demeaning to, women. Although we acknowledged that similar ads had previously appeared in Carp World, we considered readers of a fishing magazine would generally not expect to see ads that objectified or were otherwise demeaning to women. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some readers.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Signature Creative Solutions Ltd to ensure that future ads did not portray women in a manner that objectified them and which was likely to cause serious offence.



Offsite Article: Self promotion...

Link Here4th May 2016
The UK advert censor notes the 5th anniversary of its extended remit to police political correctness on the internet

See article from



Stereotypically loony left wing...

Extremists PC advert censors ask for evidence that they are not extreme enough about 'gender stereotyping'

Link Here28th April 2016

Our call for evidence: Gender stereotyping in ads 28 April 2016

In recent years, there has been increasing political and public debate on equality issues. The objectification and sexualisation of women in ads, presenting an idealised or unrealistic body image, the mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles, and gender-specific marketing to children are all issues that have gained considerable public interest.

As a proactive regulator, we want to find out more about these issues. Consequently, we will be doing three things: examining evidence on gender stereotyping in ads, seeking views from a range of stakeholders, and commissioning our own research into public opinion.

At this stage we are being open-minded about what stakeholders and research tell us about gender stereotyping in ads and the impact of such advertising, which will shape the project as we move forward. In particular, we are keen for people and organisations to send us any research they have on this issue. Evidence can be sent to us at

The project will report on whether we're getting it right on gender stereotyping in ads. If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited we will set out the best way to achieve it.

Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, said:

We're serious about making sure we're alive to changing attitudes and behaviours. That's why we've already been taking action to ban ads that we believe reinforce gender stereotypes and are likely to cause serious and widespread offence, or harm.

And that's also why we want to engage further with a wide range of stakeholders on the effect of gender stereotyping on society, including through our 'call for evidence'.

I look forward to hearing from stakeholders as this important work progresses.



Thinly disguised censorship...

Advert censor bans advert of perfectly healthy looking model on the basis of a single still

Link Here6th April 2016

Still images that appeared at the end of a video for the fashion brand Guccio Gucci SpA, seen on on 15 December 2015, featured several models dancing to a soundtrack. The final part of the ad featured several photos of individual models. Image (a) featured a woman leaning with her back to a wall and was wearing a long dress which covered her body from the neck down to her mid-calves including her arms. Image (b) featured another model who was sitting on a sofa. She was wearing a high necked jacket and a skirt which covered her down to her mid-thighs.

A complainant, who believed the featured models appeared unhealthily thin, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.

Guccio Gucci SpA said that the ads were part of a video that portrayed a dance party and was aimed at an older, sophisticated audience. They noted that the target population of The Times, where the ad appeared, had an adult and mature readership. They said it was, to some extent, a subjective issue as to whether a model looked unhealthily thin. which they considered was not the case for either of the women identified by the complainant. They believed both models had slim builds. but were not depicted in a way that could be interpreted as unhealthily thin. For example, nowhere in the ads were any models' bones visible, their makeup was natural rather than heavy (which might have accentuated the impression of thinness), lighting was uniform and warm to ensure there were no hollows caused by shadows and their clothes were not revealing. The visual parts of their bodies appeared toned and slim.

ASA Assessment; Complaint upheld

The ASA noted that the model seated on the sofa wore a short skirt which showed her legs up to her mid thighs. We noted that her legs, while slim, appeared to be generally in proportion with the rest of her body which was not excessively slender or underweight -- for example, her knee and ankle bones were not overly noticeable. We therefore considered that the model did not appear to be unhealthily thin.

We noted that the model leaning against the wall was wearing a long dress so that only her lower legs, ankles, neck and head were visible. We considered that her torso and arms were quite slender and appeared to be out of proportion with her head and lower body. Further, her pose elongated her torso and accentuated her waist so that it appeared to be very small. We also considered that her sombre facial expression and dark make up, particularly around her eyes, made her face look gaunt. For those reasons, we considered that the model leaning against the wall appeared to be unhealthily thin in the image, and therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Guccio Gucci SpA to ensure that the images in their ads were prepared responsibly.

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