An email, dated 21 October 2015, sent by pitchcare.com on behalf of Etesia UK Ltd, a horticultural equipment company, stated Meet the Etesia Calendar Girls at SALTEX! …at the NEC Birmingham . The email included a picture of two pouting women wearing cut-off shorts, leaning on a motorised lawnmower. A second picture, linked to and taken from an embedded video in the email, showed the same women in their underwear with one woman holding a hedge trimmer. The embedded video, filmed at the calendar photo shoot, featured the two underwear-clad models posing on or using gardening equipment.
1. A complainant challenged whether the images in the email were offensive, because they were sexist and objectified women.
2. The ASA challenged whether the embedded video was offensive, because it was sexually suggestive and objectified women.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA considered that recipients would understand that the calendar image and the video photo-shoot embedded in the email were included to publicise the models’ appearance at the trade fair rather than the horticultural products sold by the advertiser. The email subject line and headline text in the body of the email both stated Meet the Etesia Calendar Girls at Saltex and included details of the trade fair. However, although the images in the email were a reasonable representation of the calendar being advertised, we nonetheless considered that some recipients were unlikely to expect such images in a marketing communication from a horticultural equipment company.
We noted the women in the first picture were wearing revealing cut-off shorts, with their bottoms pushed out and pouting directly at the camera. Although the pose was not overtly sexual, we considered that it was likely to be seen as sexually suggestive. The second picture showed the women in revealing lace underwear, with one woman holding a hedge trimmer, and text next to it stated See a ‘behind-the-scenes’ video of the photo shoot using the link here … . Although the context of the image was clear, we nonetheless considered that showing the women in their underwear while using gardening equipment for no other reason than a calendar shoot, presented the women as sexual objects.
We acknowledged that the images were relevant to both the nature of the calendar and the models’ appearance at the trade fair, but considered that they were likely to be seen as objectifying women and were therefore sexist. For those reasons, we concluded that the email was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.
We acknowledged that the embedded video was filmed at the calendar photo shoot and was included in the email to promote the opportunity to meet the models at the trade fair, but considered that the scantily clad models had no relevance to the advertiser’s products featured in the video.
The women were shown posing on or near horticultural equipment in either their underwear or bikinis, or with their tops removed, although still wearing bras. Two scenes featured the women, viewed side on, individually sitting on a lawn mower. They were wearing tops, high heel shoes and brief underpants, which revealed their buttocks. The camera zoomed into the buttock area before moving upwards. The women, both wearing skimpy underwear, appeared together on the lawn mower, one sitting with the other standing behind her, which emphasised the standing model’s groin area, before the camera panned out. Towards the end of the video one of the models was briefly seen adjusting her breasts and at the end of the video the women blew kisses at the camera.
We considered that the overall impression created by the video was that it was sexual in tone with the women portrayed as sexual images and their physical features used to draw attention to the products. We considered that the video was likely to be seen as objectifying, and therefore demeaning to, women. We concluded that, because the video was sexually suggestive and degrading to women, it was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.
The email must not appear again in its current form. We told Etesia UK Ltd to ensure their ads did not cause serious offence.