Archive for the ‘ASA Advert Censor’ Category

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free balochistan taxiIn early November the Transport for London (TfL) removed Free Balochistan adverts from London black cabs after pressure from the Pakistani government.The World Baloch Organisation, which advocates for rights of the ethnic Balochs who live in the Balochistan regions straddling Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, launched its campaign on London’s black cabs to highlight the war crimes and human rights abuses of the Islamabad government. The #FreeBalochistan adverts carry slogans saying Stop enforced disappearances and Save the Baloch people

The British High Commissioner in Islamabad was summoned to appear before the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua, on Friday over the adverts which they said directly attack its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Unsurprisingly TfL were quick to get the adverts off their property and to apologise for the offence, and this seems to have done the trick for them.

The UK advert censors at ASA have also got caught up in international complaints resulting from the TfL campaign particularly as the adverts have now appeared more widely on advertising spaces that are not related to TfL.

Now clearly ASA don’t want to get involved in the political content of campaign advertising so their rules are more about offence and honest claims about products. So ASA responded to complaints noting that the adverts did not breach their deliberately apolitical advertising rules. Unfortunately the subtlety of not breaking rules has been interpreted more as approving the adverts. As explained in an article from thehindu.com :

The High Commission of Pakistan and a member of the public had referred the advert to the ASA, arguing the slogan Free Balochistan was irresponsible and offensive to the Pakistani diaspora and an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan.

In a letter to the World Baloch Organisation, which is running the campaign in London, ASA confirmed that it would not pursue the matter any further as there did not appear to be a breach of the code. The advertiser had a right to express their views, despite the issue of Baloch independence being a politically sensitive issue. The ASA’s role was to assess what appeared within the ads, rather than making a broader judgment about the intent of the ad, or the political cause, being advertised.

The ASA Council considered that the tagline ‘#FreeBalochistan’ was an invitation to find out more about a particular political campaign itself, and the ad itself did not make any specific claim that threatened the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Pakistan… the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to members of the public in general.

#FreeBalochistan campaigners were clearly delighted and hailed the decision by ASA to allow a billboard campaign by the organisation to remain in place. Bhawal Mengal, the WBO’s London spokesperson said:

Justice has prevailed. The ASA has affirmed that our campaign is within the U.K.’s rules and regulations. Moreover it has proved that Pakistan’s narrative to malign our campaign is baseless and deceitful.

Of course the Pakistan government is not so delighted: The Pakistan High Commission says it’s reviewing the ASA’s decision and article from thenews.com.pk reports a source sating that Pakistan High Commission will now launch legal action against the ASA.

A spokesman for the Pakistan High Commission said that the ASA’s response has been received which is being reviewed. The spokesman said that further course of action will be announced soon. It is an ongoing matter and we are in touch with the ASA.

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screwcap fyerA flyer for ScrewCaps UK, a manufacturer of fastener cover caps, was seen on 15 August 2017. The image featured a naked woman photographed from the back, with the shot slightly angled from below, wearing ski boots, gloves and skis, and carrying ski poles. Red text stating COVER UP partially obscured her bottom.

A complainant, who received the flyer with an order which had been made, challenged whether the ad was offensive and degrading to women.

Pro-Dec Products Ltd t/a ScrewCaps UK said they made a niche product which, whilst useful and practical, was not generally seen as aspirational or covetable. Therefore, to make their unsexy product more noticeable, and in keeping with the product’s use in covering other elements, the concept behind their ad was to refer to covering up other things that would not be normally seen.

They said that in the nine years they had been trading in the UK, they had distributed in excess of 20,000 such brochures, using a variety of models in different circumstances around the same theme of covering up. They had received 14 complaints directly, in response to the brochures they had produced. They added that the ad in question had been received by 7,000 people and they estimated, due to the multiplier effect, that 16,000 people would have seen the ad. They had ensured that any customers who had complained directly to them would not receive any further brochures.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

Although the ASA acknowledged that the use of a naked person was intended to create a visual pun linked to the concept of covering up and that some readers might appreciate that the use of such an image was intended to be comical in tone, we considered that the image of a naked woman in ski boots and carrying ski poles bore no relevance to the product being advertised, and that a link between the image of a naked woman on a ski slope and the product — a cover cap — was not one that people would normally make.

Although a slogan appeared over her bottom, we considered it would be clear to people that the woman was fully nude, bar her ski boots and gloves. We noted she had her back slightly arched to emphasize her bottom, and her breast was slightly visible from the side. We considered that her nudity was further highlighted as it appeared in the context of a ski scene, where people would ordinarily be warmly dressed. We therefore considered the female nudity was gratuitous and the pose and styling was provocative. On that basis, we considered the image could be seen to be sexually suggestive and degrading to women.

We acknowledged that ScrewCaps UK operated a business-to-business model and that this was generally the context in which their advertising would be seen. Although we considered it was therefore unlikely that children would see the ad, we considered that the image still had the potential to be seen by many people who were likely to find it offensive.

Because of the nudity and styling, as well as the woman’s pose, we concluded the image was degrading to women and likely to cause serious offence.

The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told ScrewCaps UK not to use similarly sexually suggestive images in their advertising in future.

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boca toothpasteAn ad for BOCA organic toothpastes was seen in the Raconteur supplement which was included in the Times newspaper on 28 July 2017. The ad featured a black and white image of the body of a naked woman, who was wearing only a pair of strappy heels. The woman in the image was shown reclining in a chair and facing a window, with one leg placed on top of a table by the window and the other on the ground. Her buttocks and her groin area were obscured by the arm of the chair. The woman was also shown to be holding a tube of the product.

Two complainants, who believed that the ad objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The ASA noted that the image in the ad showed only parts of the model’s body, including the lower parts of her breasts, her stomach, and her bare legs. We noted that her buttocks and groin area had been obscured by the arm of the chair, and her head, the top parts of the arms and torso, including her nipples, were out of the frame and therefore were not visible. We noted BOCA’s comments that the model in the ad was not naked and acknowledged that the ad did not include explicit nudity. However, we considered that the way in which the model was depicted gave the impression that the model was fully nude.

We considered that the pose of the model, particularly given that she was shown as reclining with her parted legs facing an open window, was sexually provocative, giving the ad a voyeuristic feel. Furthermore, because the model’s face was not shown, we considered that the visible parts of her torso, including her lower portion of her breasts, and the lower half of her body became the visual emphasis of the ad, which was likely to draw readers’ attention. We also considered that the nudity and the pose of the model, and the provocative nature of the ad, bore no relevance to the product. Because the ad placed visual emphasis on the model’s body in a sexualised manner and such nudity was unrelated to the product, we considered that the ad objectified the model depicted and invited readers to view her body as a sexual object. For those reason, we considered that the ad objectified women and concluded that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told BOCA to ensure that future advertising did not cause widespread or serious offence by objectifying women.

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royal mail heist video A paid-for video ad on Twitter and a Video On Demand (VOD) ad for Royal Mail:

a. The video ad on Twitter, seen on 27 July 2017, featured a scene with customers and staff in a bank. A short while later a gang of men in balaclavas with baseball bats entered the bank and shouted, This is a robbery. The staff and customers in the bank were made to get on their knees with their hands held up and were threatened with the baseball bats. One female member of staff was grabbed repeatedly by the shoulder and the wrist and asked her full name and date of birth by one of the assailants. Other customers were asked similar questions about their personal identity, passwords and log-in details, while a member of the gang appeared to type the information on a hand-held electronic tablet. One customer offered a gang member money to which he said, We don’t want your money. Throughout the scene the members of the public, which included a child, were shouted at aggressively by the assailants, appeared scared and some were crying. One gang member asked another, Got it? they replied, Got it all, after which the gang left the bank. On-screen text stated Your identity is now your most valuable possession. Text at the end of the ad stated, LET’S BEAT IDENTITY FRAUD followed by text that stated Visit our ID Fraud Centre for help and advice, accompanied by the Royal Mail logo and the text, The future in safe hands.

b. The VOD ad, seen on ITV Player on 9 August 2017 at approximately 9.00 pm during an episode of Coronation Street, was the same as ad (a).

Seven complainants challenged whether ads (a) and (b) were likely to cause fear and distress without justifiable reason, particularly for those who had been victims of violence, and whether ad (b) was inappropriately placed at a time when children could have been viewing.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The ASA noted that Royal Mail had sought and followed advice regarding the ad’s placement from Clearcast and CAP’s Copy Advice team, and acknowledged that the ad had not been shown on VOD before 9 pm. We concluded therefore, that it was unlikely that children had seen ad (b).

We acknowledged that identity fraud was a growing problem and it was important that steps were taken to inform the general public about how serious it was and how they could protect themselves. While we understood that the scenario of a bank robbery was chosen to emphasise the seriousness of the crime, we noted that this was not among the common scenarios in which identity fraud was perpetrated. As a result, we considered that consumers would not be able to clearly see from the ad how they could protect themselves, for example by avoiding certain actions that could make them potentially vulnerable to identity fraud. We noted the ads’ reference to the Royal Mail’s ID fraud centre, but it did not appear until the very end of the ad, during which time the scenario was presented without explanation or context.

Furthermore, because the setting of the ad was recognisable and showed ordinary people, including a child, being shouted at aggressively by criminals, lying on the floor and trying to hide behind furniture, and looking visibly frightened, the impact was heightened and there was an added sense of threat. Because of this, we considered it to be reminiscent of other crimes or situations that people may have experienced that extends beyond the bank robbery depicted and therefore could trigger negative emotions for those who had been victims of violence. We did not consider that the use of baseball bats made the ad less violent than if knives and guns had been used, as the bats were often shown held in a threatening manner by the criminals or positioned next to customers heads.

We understood Royal Mail and ITV’s view that the ad served to highlight a serious and growing crime and to assist customers to find information to protect themselves. We noted from the results of the test sample of viewers that the ad may have increased ID fraud awareness for those who had seen it. We also noted that Royal Mail had amended the Twitter ad so that a warning appeared accompanying the video and that they did not intend to use the ad again. However, we considered that the overall presentation of the ads, as seen by the complainants, was excessively threatening and distressing to the extent that it overshadowed the message the ad intended to convey. We concluded the ad was likely to cause fear and distress to viewers, in particular to victims of violence, without a justifiable reason.

We told Royal Mail to ensure that in future their ads did not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.

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fake bite tattooA pop-up banner ad promoting the website http://www.wish.com, which appeared in the in-game app, Simon’s Cat Crunch Time and was seen on 24 July 2017. The ad featured an image of a fake tattoo which looked like a bite mark on a woman’s chest.

The complainant challenged whether the ad had been targeted responsibly, because they believed it could cause harm to children who saw it.

wish.com did not respond to our enquiries.

The publisher of the app Strawdog Studios, said they had not intended to display the ad to their users and explained that it had been served through a third-party Application Programming Interface (API). Their set up with the API was intended to filter out ads like the one complained about. They explained that because of the large volume of ads they served, it occasionally happened that an ad was not caught by their filter and in that situation they would remove the specific provider manually. They also did this when people complained to them directly, although they had not received any direct customer complaints about the ad. They said they were not going to serve any further ads from wish.com.

ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld

The ASA was concerned by wish.com’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA’s enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.

The ASA understood that Simon’s Cat Crunch Time was an in-game app that featured a cartoon cat. The aim of the game was for the player to help the cat find his treats. We considered the app was likely to have strong appeal to children and therefore children were likely to have seen the ad. We noted that it was not clear from the ad that the product shown was a fake tattoo and we considered that the image, of a bite mark on a woman’s chest which was red and bloody, might cause distress to children who saw it. Because of that, we considered the ad had not been targeted responsibly and therefore breached the Code.

The ad must not appear again in an untargeted medium. We told wish.com to ensure that ads were appropriately targeted.

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paddy power bet on blackA press ad by Paddy Power bookmakers, seen in the 23 August 2017 edition of the Evening Standard and the 24 August 2017 edition of the Metro, featured the headline claim ALWAYS BET ON BLACK alongside an image of Floyd Mayweather. Further text stated WE’VE PAID OUT EARLY ON A MAYWEATHER VICTORY BECAUSE WE CHECKED, AND ONLY ONE OF THEM IS A BOXER.

Nine complainants, who considered that the headline contained an obvious reference to Floyd Mayweather’s race, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Power Leisure Bookmakers Ltd t/a Paddy Power said the ad was not intended to cause offence on the grounds of race. They said the headline was a gambling related pun as the fight was taking place in Las Vegas and betting on black was a roulette reference. They acknowledged that the headline referred to Floyd Mayweather’s race, but said it was not used in a derogatory, distasteful or offensive manner and the overall tone of the ad was light-hearted and humorous. They said the early pay out was not based on Floyd Mayweather’s race but on his experience as a professional boxer compared with Conor McGregor who had never boxed professionally.

Paddy Power said the campaign was approved by Floyd Mayweather who found the line funny, rather than offensive or derogatory. The phrase always bet on black was embroidered on the underwear Floyd Mayweather’s wore at the official weigh-in for the match in Las Vegas. Floyd Mayweather also posted an image of himself wearing the underwear on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #alwaysbetonblack, which was not part of the sponsorship deal.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The CAP Code required marketers to ensure that ads did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and for particular care to be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race. The ad appeared in the sports section of two free untargeted newspapers, and was therefore likely to have been seen by a wide-range of people. It featured the prominent headline Always Bet on Black, alongside an image of the boxer Floyd Mayweather, who was a black male. We considered that readers would interpret the headline to be a pun on Floyd Mayweather’s race and betting on roulette. We understood that the headline was also intended to be a reference to a 1992 film quote. There was, however, nothing further in the ad which indicated that the headline was a film quote, and we considered that many readers would be unfamiliar with the quote.

We acknowledged that the headline claim did not make a negative statement about Floyd Mayweather’s race and had endorsed him to win the match. We also acknowledged that Floyd Mayweather had authorised the claim. However, we considered that readers would nevertheless be offended by the invitation to always bet on the outcome of a boxing match based on a boxer’s race, and the message that the boxing match was a fight between two different races. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race.

We told Paddy Power to ensure they avoided causing serious offence on the grounds of race.

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bankss beer jesus advertA tweet from the Bank’s Beer twitter account, dated 12 April 2017, stated Easter is on it’s [sic] way #easter #beer #tellitlikeitis #Wolverhampton. The tweet contained an image which featured a graffiti painting on a wall of Jesus sitting on a bench with a halo above his head. The image showed Jesus wearing a rabbit costume with the head taken off and placed on the bench. Below the bench was a basket filled with Easter eggs. Next to the bench was a pint glass branded with text which stated BANK’S TELL IT LIKE IT IS.

A complainant, who believed the image of Jesus in a rabbit costume trivialised Christianity, challenged whether the ad was offensive.

ASA Assessment: Complaint not upheld

The ASA noted that the tweet was posted during the Easter period and contained an image of Jesus wearing a rabbit costume. We acknowledged that the depiction of Jesus, and particularly the timing of the tweet, could be interpreted as distasteful by some people of a Christian faith. However, we considered that most people would not find the portrayal of Jesus to be mocking or derogatory. Because we considered that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, we concluded that it had not breached the Code.