A TV ad, for Belle D’Opium perfume, featured a woman dancing to a drum beat. The woman pointed to her inner elbow and ran her finger along the inside of her forearm. She was then shown lying on the floor as a voice-over began I am your addiction, I am Belle D’Opium. The new fragrance by Yves St Laurent.
Thirteen viewers objected that the ad was irresponsible and offensive, because the woman’s actions simulated drug use.
ASA Assessment: Upheld
The ASA understood the ad had been carefully choreographed and styled to create Belle and her movements as a way of emphasising the powerful and intense qualities of the perfume, and to play on the idea the perfume had addictive qualities like a woman or opium. However, we noted that the ad broadcast on TV was only 20 seconds of the full one-minute ad featured on the Belle d’Opium website, and that it had been cut to feature predominantly the quickest and most dramatic music and scenes from the full ad.
We noted that two of the key scenes, the circular symbol and wings gesture scenes, were omitted from the TV ad, and other key scenes were altered. We considered that the fast changing scenes and urgent music, created a less flowing, more frantic atmosphere in the ad, which might not enable viewers to interpret the ad as a stylised expression of femininity and bewitchment, as intended.
We were concerned that in the context of the ad, Belle running her finger down her inner arm could be seen to simulate the injection of opiates into the body. We were also concerned that following that scene, Belle was shown moving in a series of short, rapid scenes, before the ad concluded with her body seizing upwards while lying on the floor, an action we considered could be seen to simulate the effect of drugs on the body. While we recognised the name OPIUM was a well-known designer perfume brand and did not consider it irresponsible or offensive to advertise OPIUM branded products, and while we noted the consumer research found that most viewers did not consider the ad to be offensive, we nevertheless considered the woman’s actions simulated drug use, and therefore concluded it was irresponsible and unacceptable for broadcast.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility), 4.1 (Physical, mental, moral or social harm), 4.4 (Health and safety), and 4.9 (Violence, crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour), but did not breach 4.2 (Serious or widespread offence).