A Facebook post by the car leasing company, LINGsCars, posted on 16 June 2020, included the text ***BLACK***. In light of recent events, I'm resurrecting my Audi deal. The ad featured the image BLACK CARS MATTER. I ASKED HOLLY FOR A HEADLINE FOR THIS
A4...AND SHE SAID: 'ONCE YOU GO BLACK, YOU NEVER GO BACK!'. The ad then featured an image of a black raised hand with a wristband displaying the Audi logo alongside an image of a black Audi. Text stated AUDI A4 BLACK POWER EDITION. Further text stated
MANUAL GEARBOX (BIG GEARKNOB).
Three complainants, who believed the image of the claims Black Cars Matter, Once you go black, you never go back and the image of the raised fist were insensitive and offensive, challenged whether
the ad was likely to cause serious offence and was socially irresponsible.
Response Lingscars.com Ltd believed Black cars matter was inoffensive. They said the phrase was a pun on the launch of the new car, the Audi Black Edition,
and that Once you go black, you never go back was a well-known phrase that would not be offensive to black people. They said the image of the raised fist was the symbol of the Black Power movement; they argued it was a positive symbol and was not seen as
offensive in other contexts, such as the recent Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton raised his fist.
ASA Assessment Complaints upheld
The ASA noted that the ad appeared shortly after the Black Lives Matter
protests and during a public debate about racism in the UK. We considered that people would understand the headline BLACK CARS MATTER, the image of the raised fist and the name Audi A4 Black Power Edition to be references to the Black Lives Matter and
Black Power movements. By using that slogan and iconography simply to draw attention to an ad for a car had the effect of trivialising the serious issues raised by those movements. The claim, ONCE YOU GO BLACK, YOU NEVER GO BACK! in addition to the claim
BIG GEARKNOB, we also considered was likely to be seen as objectifying and fetishising black men. Because those claims, particularly in the context of an ad for an unrelated product alongside references to recent protests opposing racism against black
people, were likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race, we considered the ad was socially irresponsible. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Advertisements must comply
with the law and broadcasters must make that a condition of acceptance.
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?
A poster ad for PeoplePerHour, seen on the London Underground in November 2019, featured an image of a woman and text that stated YOU DO THE GIRL BOSS THING. WE'LL DO THE SEO THING. Further text stated Hire expert freelancers by the hour to help your
business grow. With everything from coding to video editing, it's easy to see why over 2 million people have trusted PeoplePerHour to help build their dream business.
Nineteen complainants, who believed that the ad perpetuated
harmful gender stereotypes by depicting a woman running a business in a patronising way and by implying that women were not technologically skilled, challenged whether it breached the Code.
People Per Hour Ltd said the core
intention of the campaign was to celebrate entrepreneurs and business owners, highlighting the fact they often walked a tightrope between driving their business forward and being weighed down by small day-to-day tasks.
girl boss was a reference to a book, popular culture movement and professional network. PeoplePerHour and their agency said they had not considered that the pairing of the term girl boss with the word thing could come across as patronising and reductive.
They acknowledged that the execution might unintentionally come across as sexist and demeaning to women. They had taken steps to rectify that by removing the word girl from the ad and issuing a public apology on their website.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The CAP Code stated Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence. The joint CAP and BCAP
Advertising guidance on depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence said that gender-stereotypical roles included occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender, while gender-stereotypical
characteristics included attributes or behaviours usually associated with a specific gender. It further stated that ads that directly contrast male and female stereotypical roles or characteristics need to be handled with care, and that care should be
taken to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender.
The poster stated You do the girl boss thing. We'll do the SEO thing. It was a well-established stereotype that
men were more suited to positions of authority in the business world than women. We considered that using the gendered term girl boss, as opposed to just boss, implied that the gender of the person depicted was relevant to their performance in a
managerial or entrepreneurial role. It was also likely to be interpreted as indicating that a female boss was an exception to the norm. Furthermore, in the context of the girl boss thing, use of the word girl to refer to an adult woman reinforced the
impression that a female boss was a novelty, playing at their role and somehow less serious than a man in the same position. We acknowledged that the term girl boss made reference to a book and TV show about a female entrepreneur, and resulting use of
that term more widely in popular culture. However, we considered that many people viewing the ad were unlikely to be familiar with that reference.
It was also a well-established stereotype that women were not skilled at using
technology. In contrast with the gendered reference in the first part of the sentence, we considered that We'll do the SEO thing (referring to search engine optimisation) was likely to be understood to mean that female bosses in particular needed outside
help with IT matters. We acknowledged the steps taken to rectify those issues by removing the word girl from the ad and issuing an apology.
However, for the reasons given we concluded that the ad had the effect of reinforcing
harmful gender stereotypes and that it breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told People Per Hour Ltd to ensure their advertising did not perpetuate gender stereotypes in a harmful way.
A Facebook post by The Folly Bar in Boston, Lincolnshire, seen on 29th September 2019, featured text which stated Buy your own keg for you and your friends! Over 50 cold pints available at your fingertips -- Have it next to your table in the main room,
our private room or outside in the beer garden! The ad featured an image of a man in a suit with a pint of beer leaning on a bar, under which sat a keg of beer.
A complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it
encouraged the excessive consumption of alcohol.
The Folly Bar said that the keg was offered to groups of 10 or more people. As that offered up to five pints of beer to each person, they did not deem such consumption as excessive.
They said the keg was predominantly purchased for birthdays and stag parties, and their staff monitored the consumption throughout. The Folly Bar said that their local Licensing Authority saw no issue with the ad, and that the keg was only available for
pre-purchase, where consumers were required to complete an online form confirming how many people would be attending the event. They said they would amend the ad so that it stated For group bookings.
ASA Assessment: Complaint
The CAP Code required marketing communications to contain nothing that was likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise, including excessive drinking. The ASA considered that consumers would understand
from the text Buy your own keg for you and your friends! Over 50 pints available at your fingertips -- Have it next to your table in the main room, our private room or outside in the beer garden to mean that they and a group of friends could purchase the
keg, which offered them 50 pints of beer, in various areas of the pub, and consequently implied it was readily available to any size group.
We acknowledged The Folly Bar's comment that the product was available to groups of 10 or
more people. However, that was not accounted for in the ad, and we noted that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) defined binge drinking as having over eight units in a single session for men and over six units in a single session for women. We
understood that the UK's Chief Medical Officer (CMO)'s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines advised both men and women not to drink regularly more than 14 units a week. It also advised consumers not to save up their 14 units, and that it was best to evenly
spread them across the week. We understood that five pints of 5% beer such as the one on offer equated to 14 units, which went beyond the ONS's definition of binge drinking, and went against the CMO's advice to spread the units evenly across the week. In
light of the above, we considered the ad was irresponsible because it encouraged the excessive consumption of alcohol and was therefore in breach of the Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told The Folly Bar
to ensure that their future advertising did not encourage excessive drinking.
A TV ad for PCSpecialist, a manufacturer and seller of bespoke PC computers, was seen on 17 September 2019. It featured three men performing different activities on computers, including producing music and coding. The male voice-over stated, It's the
beginning of the end. The end of following. It's the start of freedom, individuality, choice. It's an uprising. An insurgence. For the players, the gamers, the 'I'll sleep laters', the creators, the editors, the music makers. The techies, the coders, the
illustrators. Bespoke, customised, like no other. From the specialists for the specialists. PC Specialist.
Eight complainants, who believed that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting men in roles that were
stereotypically male and implying that it was only men who were interested in technology and computers, challenged whether it breached the Code.
PCSpecialist said their customer base was 87.5%
male, aged between 15 and 35 years. Their product, branding and service had been developed for and aimed at that target audience and the characters in the ad therefore represented a cross-section of the PCSpecialist core customer base. PCSpecialist said
the characters looked into the camera as though they were using a PCSpecialist machine. They did not believe they represented negative stereotypes and were playing the roles of entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers and hard workers. They considered there was
no comparison between men and women in the ad and the ad did not imply that women were not interested in computers. They said the ad did not juxtapose men using computers with women not using computers, nor did the ad explicitly state that women did not
use computers or that the service was unsuitable for them.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The BCAP Code stated Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or
serious or widespread offence. The joint CAP and BCAP Advertising guidance on depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence said that gender-stereotypical characteristics included occupations or positions and also
attributes or behaviours usually associated with a specific gender. It added that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely
associated with one gender; were the only options available to one gender; or were never carried out or displayed by another gender. The guidance also stated that, subject to the guiding principles, neither the rule nor the guidance were intended to
prevent ads from featuring one gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender.
The ad began with a PC exploding and went on to state freedom, individuality and choice before referencing a number
of specialist and creative roles in quick succession, encompassing leisure pursuits and professional positions, not just limited to information technology, but in the creative and artistic industries and entertainment, namely: players/gamers, creators,
editors, music makers, techies, coders and illustrators. We considered that the voice-over and fast-paced series of scenes in the ad conveyed a sense of excitement and opportunity and implied that those depicted in the ad were innovative, highly skilled
and achieving excellence in the roles and careers mentioned and that those watching should aspire to excel in them too. However, the ad repeatedly cut to images of only men, who were both prominent and central to the ad's message of opportunity and
excellence across multiple desirable career paths. We therefore considered that the ad implied that excellence in those roles and fields would be seen as the preserve of men. Because of that, we considered that the ad went further than just featuring a
cross-section of the advertiser's core customer base and implied that only men could excel in those roles.
Although the guidance did not prohibit ads from featuring only one gender, we considered that because the ad strongly
implied only men could excel in the specialisms and roles depicted we concluded the ad presented gender stereotypes in way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in the form
complained about. We told PCSpecialist Ltd to ensure their advertising did not present gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm, including by suggesting that excellence in multiple career paths was uniquely associated with one gender.