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ASA Adjudication on The Fuel Agency Ltd

The Fuel Agency Ltd

The Old Courthouse
19 Market Square
Stony Stratford
Milton Keynes
MK11 1BE

Date:

11 August 2010

Media:

Direct mail

Sector:

Business

Number of complaints:

2

Complaint Ref:

118999

Ad

A direct mailing, for a marketing agency, was in the form of a valentine’s card; text on the front stated “I F**CKING LOVE YOU”. Further text on an adjacent page stated “ … You might f**cking love us”.

Issue

Two complainants objected that the language in the ad was offensive.

CAP Code (Edition 11)

Response

The Fuel Agency Ltd (TFA) said no expletive was used in the ad. They believed it was commonly understood that to communicate an expletive without causing offence, it was acceptable to use the widespread format "f**k". They said 1,000 of the ads were sent to a purchased mailing list.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA noted the expletive in the ad was partly obscured but considered the intended meaning was still clear. We were concerned that the expletive, although partly obscured, was used on the front of an untargeted direct mailing. We noted the expletive was irrelevant to the product and considered its use was gratuitous in the context of an ad about marketing services. We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 5.1 and 5.2 (Decency).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told TFA to take care to avoid causing serious or widespread offence in future.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)

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