Two ads for http://www.rakuten.co.uk, an online retail website:
a. A display ad seen in March 2016 on bt.com 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 bt.com 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.Ã 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.