A little bit of Apoplexia…PC censors get worked up over an advert for Vivastreet

Posted: 8 July, 2015 in ASA Advert Censor
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Read more ASA Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

vivastreet advert Two ads for Vivastreet online classified ads service:

a. A poster displayed on a bus stop pictured three women posing and looking at the camera and text which stated A little bit of Bella … A little bit of Layla… A little bit of Nicola … Get your own little bit at vivastreet.co.uk .

b. An ad on the side of a black cab featured the same image and text as ad (a).

The ASA received 24 complaints:

  1. All the complainants objected that the ads, and in particular the phrase Get your own little bit , were offensive because they were sexist and objectified women.

  2. Five complainants also objected that the ads were irresponsibly placed where children could see them.

ASA Assessment: complaints upheld

The ASA understood that the ads promoted Vivastreet’s personals section, which included a subsection for escorts as well as dating. We acknowledged that some people would find the advertising of classified ads for escorts offensive because of the product being promoted. However, the fact the product would be offensive to some people was not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. We therefore considered the overall impression and context of the ads.

The image of the women in the ad was no more than mildly sexual in nature and we considered that most people who saw the ad were likely to recognise that the words used derived from the well-known song Mambo No.5. However, we considered that the words A little bit of Bella … A little bit of Layla … A little bit of Nicola … Get your own little bit at vivastreet.co.uk , in combination with the image, objectified women and implied that they could be bought on the Vivastreet website, which was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We considered that many older children were also likely to understand that implication of the ads and for that reason (and notwithstanding that the ads were not placed in close proximity to schools) it was socially irresponsible to place the ads in outdoor media because they were likely to be seen by children. Although we understood that Vivastreet were aiming the ads at a particular target market, they appeared in outdoor media and could therefore be seen by anyone. We concluded that, in that context, the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence and that they were unsuitable for public display.

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Vivastreet to take particular care when advertising the personals section of their website, including in outdoor media, to ensure they did not objectify women or imply they could be bought, to avoid causing serious or widespread offence.


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