Melon Farmers Original Version

Sex Shops in Stoke

Whinges about Pulse & Cocktails advert

4th January

Update: SEXy Shopping...

ASA clears Pulse and Cocktails sex shop posters...again

Three posters for Pulse & Cocktails sex shops:

a. A large poster sited on a road in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, seen in September 2011, stated in large text SEXy ADULT STORE . An image next to the text showed a woman in a bunny girl outfit, posing with her finger to her open lips.

b. A large poster, which replaced ad (a) sited on a road in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, seen in October 2011, stated in large text SEXy ADULT STORE . An image next to the text showed a woman dressed in a French maid's outfit, holding a feather duster.

c. A large poster sited on a dual carriageway in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, seen in October 2011, stated in large text SEXY SUPERSTORE . An image next to the text showed a woman dressed in a French maid's outfit, holding a feather duster.


  1. A member of the public and a local councillor challenged whether ad (a) was unsuitable to be seen by children.

  2. The local councillor also challenged whether ad (a) was offensive.

  3. A member of the public challenged whether ad (b) was offensive and unsuitable to be seen by children.

  4. Two members of the public, who considered ad (c) was demeaning to women, challenged whether it was offensive and unsuitable to be seen by children.

Cocktails Ltd said that all their advertising was done in-house and they had used various forms of media including radio, press and billboard since starting the business in 1997. This advertising had always followed a similar format, promoting a sexy shopping theme, including their company name Pulse & Cocktails and also wording used on the store signage to describe the store as either a Sexy Superstore or a Sexy Adult Store instead of the traditional Sex Shop . They said they had always used the word sexy to describe their stores as it was less harsh than the word sex .

They said that the images used on their posters and in the press were of models dressed in fancy dress costume and these varied slightly, depending on the season and had ranged from a Bunny Girl costume, Miss Santa, a Sexy Maid and a Cow Girl. These costumes were not skimpy and were now so mainstream that they could be purchased from general, high street clothing stores and supermarkets. The images used in their advertising were direct from the costume manufacturers and in addition to the advertising, the costumes and images were displayed on their store windows and mannequins.

Cocktails Ltd said that their posters were intended to have a sexier edge because they were advertising their business but they were not intended to be offensive, demeaning to women or overtly sexual , so as to be harmful to children.

Cocktails Ltd stated that they selected the sites for the posters based on proximity to local stores and had not taken into consideration whether or not they were likely to be seen by children. Cocktails Ltd finished by saying that they had seven billboard campaigns at sites in Leeds, Hitchin, Cheltenham, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and Gloucester, which were all within close proximity to one of their stores. These sites had run continuously for several years and had been chosen specifically because of their locations. They said that they did not run generic billboard campaigns randomly throughout the country and the posters advertised specific stores and were purely used for directional purposes to guide customers travelling by car, on to the correct road. '

ASA Assessment: 1, 2, 3 & 4 Not upheld

The ASA noted the complainants' concerns and we considered that the images on each poster were mildly sexual. We also noted that the text on posters (a) and (b) highlighted the letters SEX in the word SEXy and taking into account the service advertised on each of the posters along with the text and the images, we considered that the main message of the posters was of a sexual nature. However, we considered that the posters were not overtly sexual and were therefore suitable for outdoor advertising.

We did, however, consider that because the posters were of a sexual nature they were unsuitable to be seen by children and should be subject to a placement restriction and should therefore not appear within 100m of schools. In the case of each poster, we noted that this was already the case.

We investigated the posters under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence) but did not find them in breach. Action


13th March

Update: Little Devils...

ASA find Pulse and Cocktails poster not in breach of code

We are delighted to announce we have won our right to ‘sexy’ advertising following a complaint over a billboard poster in Stoke-On-Trent. The poster displayed a female dressed in a Halloween fancy dress outfit with the headline ‘Sexy shopping’. We were led to believe the complainant was a member of the local church and was offended by the satanic implications of the costume.

We are thrilled that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found in our favour and agreed the poster was not explicit, offensive or inappropriate for display. We understand now that the root of the objection was based on moral grounds.

We have ran similar advertising campaigns since starting in 1997 through press, radio and billboards to which complaints have literally been unheard of in our 10 years of trading.

We are currently in talks with Clear Channel with a view to renewing our advertising contract at the site to which the complaint was received. However, as a sign of respect to the complainant we intend on using a different image as originally suggested, even though the previous advert does not breach any codes.

As part of our 10th year anniversary celebrations in addition to the erotic goods we have expanded the sexy lifestyle side of our stores to include more fancy dress costumes and party novelties, swimwear, luxury gifts, greeting cards, jewellery and footwear.

The ASA decision was published as follows:

The ASA noted Cocktails' comment that the Committee of Advertising Practise (CAP) had seen a press ad produced by Cocktails and had advised that it was unlikely to breach the CAP Code. We understood, however, that CAP had seen only the text of the ad and not the image of the model in the devil outfit. We also noted, following an earlier complaint, the ASA had considered that another poster for Cocktails that featured a model in a bunny girl outfit was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

We noted the poster was displayed at a busy roundabout and was near a primary school and a church. We considered that, although some would find the woman in a devil outfit and the headline "SEXy shopping" distasteful, the content of the ad was relevant to the advertised product and was not explicit. We concluded that the poster was not inappropriate for display on a poster and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

We investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsible advertising) and 5.1 (Decency) but did not find it in breach.


14th February

Update: Be a Devil: Allow a Little Sexy Fun...

Pulse and Cocktails in robust defence of their poster

Pulse and Cocktails have put together a well considered and robust defence for their poster that attracted complaints in Stoke.

Marketing for the sex shop chain has always been directed at couples to promote a sexy shopping need for adults. Sexy Shopping at Europe's Largest Sexy Superstores is their slogan used on Pulse and Cocktails' premises and also in advertising.

They have used the same format of advertising both in the press and also on billboards for a number of years using the sexy shopping theme with many carrying an image of a female model dressed in a fancy dress outfit. These outfits have ranged from Bunny Girl, Miss Santa, Maid, Cow Girl and also Sexy Devil all of which are not skimpy and can be purchased from many non-adult high street retailers.

Similar newspaper advertisements have been published frequently since 2005 and the same image ran for several months in the Sunday People. This advert was examined by CAP before going to print and no complaints have ever been lodged to either Pulse and Cocktails or the newspaper.

Similar posters have been run for some time in Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton, Gloucester and Chesterfield and no complaints have been lodged. A complaint was made about a poster in Cheltenham but to the best of knowledge, the poster was found to be none offensive and the complainant was notified accordingly.

In this case, it seems that complainant was offended by the image on the poster as it depicted the Devil and was in close proximity to the complainants' Church.  Although the image used is tame and the outfit is clearly a fancy dress with no satanic implications at all, Pulse and Cocktails offered to replace it with a new poster following the same format but with a female model dressed in a different fancy dress costume. The complainant rebuffed the offer and said any poster advertising a sex shop at that location was unacceptable.

Pulse and Cocktails also believe it is unfair to suggest that it is unsuitable to advertise their business in the vicinity of a church or school. Many sex shops can be seen by children as they pass in cars or by foot. Also, numerous sex shops advertise on buses and taxis that pass schools and churches with children passengers.

None of the advertisements describe products for sale nor show images of products of a sexual nature.

The word ‘sexy' is a word used by the media on a daily basis and it would be hard to imagine why a child would be affected by reading this word.

Pulse and Cocktails therefore conclude that the complaint is based more on personal morality than on the contents of the poster.


7th February

Prudes in Stoke...

Sex shop poster winds up the easily offended

Stoke residents have complained about a poster advertising a sex shop. The advert for Pulse and Cocktails in Longton, featuring a photo of a woman dressed provocatively as a devil, was displayed at the roundabout where the A34 meets the A500 at Hanford.

Councillor Terry Follows has received complaints from parents concerned about their children seeing the billboard, which is near St Teresa's Primary School.

Councillor Follows said: I'm no prude ... BUT ... I've had a number of complaints about it. Do we want that sort of billboard plastered around our city? People have been trying to explain to their children what it means and it can be very awkward.

The director of Pulse and Cocktails, Graham Kidd says the company has branches around the country that are advertised with the same poster. He said he had offered to alter the image when it is put up again. He said: I've been told there has been a complaint that the girl is dressed as a devil and it's near a Catholic school and a church. I am prepared to use a different photo, of someone in lingerie or a bunny girl - which will cost Ł1,000 - if that will address the concern.

But residents living nearby believe the content of the advert is inappropriate. Tina Tomkinson said: Things like this shouldn't be in your face. There's a school down there so lots of people have to walk their children past it every day. It's shocking - I don't think it should be put up again.


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