ASA Adjudication on BSS Group Ltd
BSS Group Ltd t/a
Birchwood Price Tools
22 February 2012
Number of complaints:
Cheetham Bell JWT
A poster promoting a competition to win "the ultimate lads' bash for you and 3 mates", seen in November 2011, featured an image of the inside of a workman's van, as if seen from the rear. The image included a man reclining at the front of the van with two women at the back. One of the women was shown in her underwear and high heels and was holding on to a vertical pole that was fixed to the van and the other was shown in a short white dress, sitting on a spare tyre covered in material. The image also included bottles of champagne and a bra hanging from a ladder. Further text included "scruffs HARDWEAR IT'S GONNA GET DIRTY".
Eight complainants challenged whether the ad was:
1. offensive and demeaning to women; and
2. unsuitable to be seen by children.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1., & 2
BSS Group Ltd t/a Birchwood Price Tools (BSS Group) stated that the WIN THE NIGHT BEFORE ad campaign was used to target tradesmen with a competition to promote their Scruffs safety footwear and work wear brand. They stated that the objective of the ad was to promote the competition in good humour and that many of their ads used double entendres and innuendo to create a 'Carry-On' style humour. They stated that this was illustrated through the strap line "It's Gonna Get Dirty", which alluded to the tradesmen getting soiled on site during the course of their working day. They said that on the flipside, it also related to the good humoured use of insinuation to appeal to their customers. They added that whilst they strove to be different, they worked hard not to be overtly sexual or sexist. They said that the van ad was designed to show a tradesman opening the van door to find his colleague amidst the aftermath of a party. They stated that the ad revolved around winning an ultimate lads night out for a tradesman and his best friends and they considered that, artistically, this was the best way to visually portray the prize. They also stated that the campaign was intended to be located on billboards within a one kilometre radius of their key trade dealer premises (which were predominantly on industrial sites), and that they had specifically taken steps to ensure that the poster ads were not displayed near schools or near sensitive communities. However, they stated that the media owners had placed two of the ads outside those areas as a result of human error and that this may have led to the ads being seen by children. They stated that the media owner was made aware of this error and that the ads were removed.
The ASA noted the ad was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek representation of the morning after an "ultimate lads' bash", which was the prize that was the subject of the ad. However, whilst the concept of the lads' night was linked to the competition prize being advertised, we considered that consumers would interpret the portrayal of the woman in back of the van, particularly the woman in her underwear, as a suggestion that they had played a sexual role in the lads' night out and morning after story that was being portrayed. We considered that this was further implied by the text "IT'S GONNA GET DIRTY", which we considered would be understood by consumers to be a reference to sexual activity that was likely to take place. We concluded that, in the context of a promotion for work-related clothing, the portrayal of the women within such a strong sexual context was demeaning and offensive and that the ad was therefore unsuitable for public display.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
We understood from the complainant that the poster ad had appeared near to a nursery school in one location and a primary school in another. We noted BSS Group stated that one of the outdoor media contractors had failed to follow their instructions that the poster ads should not have been placed near schools or near sensitive community sites. We considered that the images, alongside the text "IT'S GONNA GET DIRTY', presented the women in a sexually provocative way and that as such, the poster ad was not suitable to be placed in areas where it was more likely to be seen by children. We considered that whilst a placement restriction had been put in place, the ad had appeared in areas where it was more likely to be seen by children. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility).
The ad should not appear again in its current form.