ASA Adjudication on Unilever UK Ltd
Unilever UK Ltd
23 November 2011
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
Tullo Marshall Warren
Five internet display ads for Lynx Dry Full Control deodorant. The first four ads were video ads viewed on Yahoo, Hotmail, Rotten Tomatoes and Anorak in June and July 2011. The fifth ad was a static display ad on Spotify viewed in July 2011.
a. The first ad showed Lucy Pinder carrying out various activities including getting dressed, washing a car and eating an ice lolly. In each scene she was wearing different outfits all of which revealed her cleavage. On-screen text stated "Can she make you lose control? Put premature perspiration to the test". Text at the end invited viewers to "Play with Lucy" and gave the web address www.lynxeffect.com.
b. The second ad showed Lucy Pinder carrying out various activities such as stripping wallpaper, jogging, applying lip gloss, eating whipped cream off her finger and playing with a light sabre. On-screen text stated "What will she do to make you lose control?". At the end of the ad Lucy Pinder beckoned to the viewer and on-screen text stated "Lucy Pinder [blank]ing makes me prematurely perspire".
c. Ad (c) was the same as ad (b) above but featured different on-screen text that stated "Can she make you lose control?" and "Put premature perspiration to the test".
d. The fourth ad featured various close ups of Lucy Pinder's cleavage. On-screen text at the end of the ad invited viewers to "Play with Lucy" and gave the website address www.lynxeffect.com.
e. The Spotify ad featured an image of Lucy Pinder wearing underwear and bending over an oven door. Text stated "Can she make you lose control?". The ad then reduced to a sidebar image of Lucy Pinder standing outdoors under a washing line in her underwear and a short shirt. The ad invited viewers to click through to watch a video.
Ten complainants challenged whether ads (a), (b), (c) and (d):
1. were offensive, because they featured sexually provocative content and were degrading to women; and
2. were irresponsible, because they were inappropriately located on sites that could be seen by children, and could cause harm to children.
Six complainants challenged whether ad (e):
3. was offensive, because it featured sexually provocative content and was degrading to women; and
4. was irresponsible, because it was inappropriately located on Spotify where it could be seen by children, and could cause harm to children.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Unilever UK Ltd (Unilever) said their ads for Lynx often provoked diverse reactions and opinions, but that it was not their intention to cause harm or offence. Whilst they were confident that the ads complied with the CAP Code, they sincerely regretted any offence caused.
Unilever explained that the Lynx range of products was targeted at males aged 17 to 27 years old, and had been popular over the years for its playful, sexy, tongue-in-cheek take on the 'mating game' narrative. They believed audiences had come to expect, and were comfortable with, the narrative, tone and content seen in their ads. Unilever said, in this case, the ads played on the idea that men could feel flustered and lack composure in the mating game and that they may not always project the cool and suave image they would like to. Unilever said the ads aimed to draw attention to the Lynx website, where visitors could watch a variety of videos featuring Lucy Pinder, which were designed to be playful, sexy and humorous but not to cause offence. They said the videos were an extension of the overall Lynx Dry campaign theme – that, when presented with an attractive woman Lynx Dry could help guys to keep their cool.
1. Unilever said they did not believe the ads featured anything inappropriate. They pointed out that the text "Can she make you lose control?" in ads (a) and (c), "What will she do to make you lose control?" in ad (b) and "put premature perspiration to the test" in ads (a) and (c) were always featured alongside the statement "New Lynx Dry, Full Control, 48Hr Anti-Perspirant", and therefore made clear that the product could help men keep sweat under control and prevent them getting flustered. They said the wording "Play with Lucy" in as (a) and (d) and "Lucy Pinder [blank]ing makes me prematurely perspire" in ad (d) was intended to be humorous and related to the interactive game on their website, where visitors could fill in the blank in order to see a video of Lucy. Unilever said Lucy was portrayed throughout the campaign as a woman who was confident and in control, and they did not believe the ads were degrading to women or would cause serious or widespread offence.
2. Unilever said they were careful to only place the ads on sites that targeted males aged over 16 years. They said Yahoo and Hotmail had technology that ensured that the ads in question were directed at adult males. Unilever explained that Anorak and Rotten Tomatoes were a current affairs site and a film review website respectively, and that both appealed predominantly to adults. They said they believed they had targeted an appropriate age group.
Yahoo! UK Ltd (Yahoo) said the ads ran across their news channel and UK website, and were targeted at males with UK IP addresses and in the over 18 age bracket. They said that 97% of their news channel users were over 18,and they believed they had taken adequate steps to ensure the ads were not seen by children. Yahoo said they did not believe the ads would cause offence to the targeted audience, and explained that they had not received any complaints directly. Yahoo said there was an inherent risk with the internet that children might come across content not entirely suitable for them, especially on shared computers in the family home where age-specific targeting could not always prevent children from seeing content targeted at an adult using that computer. Yahoo said they worked hard to navigate those issues and believed it was acceptable to run the ads with the appropriate age targeting.
Microsoft UK said the ad was targeted to males between 16 and 24 years of age only, and explained that 91% of the Hotmail audience was over 18 years of age and 94% were over 15 years of age. They said they understood the ad ran nationally across all forms of media, and because of the targeting, and the nationwide campaign with which users would have been familiar, they believed the ad met their internal requirements. They said, as far as they were aware, they had not served it to anyone other than the intended demographic, and they had not received any complaints about the ads.
Anorak said they had not received any complaints about the ad. They said their site, which was a mix of news, politics, technology, a satirical take on celebrity news and weirdness, was aimed at an older rather than a younger audience. They said the ad had been vetted by their agency Glam Media and they did not believe it was worse than anything viewers were likely to see on TV.
Rotten Tomatoes did not respond to the complaint.
3. Unilever said they did not believe the ad was degrading to women, but instead humorously highlighted the fact that confident and attractive women could make men feel nervous and cause them to lose their cool. They said the ad had a sexy, playful theme and did not contain anything that was inappropriate or likely to cause serious or widespread offence, even if viewed by a wider audience.
4. Unilever said that Spotify required users who registered with them to provide their date of birth. They said the ad was only displayed to users who were over 16 years, according to the information they had provided on the Spotify registration form.
Spotify did not respond to the complaint.
The ASA noted that Unilever intended the ads to be a tongue-in-cheek take on the 'mating game'. However, we considered that the various activities that Ms Pinder carried out were presented in a sexually provocative way, and that alongside the focus on Ms Pinder's cleavage, especially in ad (d), the ads were likely to be seen as gratuitous and to objectify women. We considered that was emphasised by the text "Can she make you lose control?" in ads (a) and (c), "What will she do to make you lose control?" in ad (b), "Lucy Pinder [blank]ing makes me prematurely perspire" in ad (b), and the invitation to "Play with Lucy" in ads (a) and (d), which we considered would also be seen as degrading to women. We therefore concluded that the ads were likely to cause serious and widespread offence.
On this point, ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
We noted that Yahoo had targeted the ads to men over the age of 18 years, and that 97% of users of their news channel, where the ad appeared in addition to appearing across their UK website, were over 18. We also noted that Hotmail had targeted the ads to males between the ages of 16 and 25, and that 94% of users of the Hotmail site were over 15 and 91% were over 18 years of age. Notwithstanding our concern in point 1 above that the ads were likely to cause offence, we noted that for the purposes of the CAP Code a child was someone under the age of 16 and considered that the ad was unlikely to cause harm to those aged 16 or over. We also considered that, because the ad was unlikely to be seen by those under the age of 18 on the Yahoo and Hotmail sites, it was not irresponsible on those grounds for the ads to be placed on those websites.
However, we noted that we had not seen evidence that showed what proportion of the users of the Rotten Tomatoes and Anorak websites were over 16 years of age. We understood that the Rotten Tomatoes and Anorak websites were not protected through age verification or other similar targeting, and therefore that the ads could be viewed by a wide audience. For the reasons given in point 1 above, we considered that the ads were unsuitable to be seen by children and could cause them harm, and that Unilever had not taken adequate steps in relation to those websites to ensure they were appropriately targeted. We therefore concluded that the ads were irresponsible.
On this point, ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 5.1 (Children).
We considered that the image of Lucy Pinder leaning over the oven door in her underwear was provocative. Whilst we noted that the second image of Ms Pinder wearing her underwear and a short shirt was less suggestive, we considered that, alongside the text "Can she make you lose control?", the ad was likely to be seen as objectifying women and degrading to them. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some people.
On this point, ad (e) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
4. Not upheld
We noted Unilever's assertion that the ad was targeted to Spotify users over the age of 16, and understood that, on registering, Spotify users were asked to give their age and confirm whether they were over 12 years of age and had parental consent, or over 18 years of age. Notwithstanding our concern in point 3 above that the ad was likely to cause serious offence, we considered that the ad was unlikely to cause harm to those aged 16 or over. We also considered that, because the ad was unlikely to be seen by children under the age of 16, it was not irresponsible on those grounds.
On this point, we investigated ad (e) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 5.1 (Children) but did not find it in breach.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Unilever to ensure that their ads were appropriately targeted in future.