ASA Adjudication on Online Buddies Inc
Online Buddies Inc t/a
215 First St. Suite
13 June 2012
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A poster for manhunt.net, an online dating service, seen in February 2012 showed two topless men, one with his arm around the other, who were about to kiss.
The ASA received 20 complaints.
1. All the complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive because they believed the image was overtly sexual.
2. Fourteeen complainants challenged whether the ad was inappropriate for general display, where it could be seen by children.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. & 2. Online Buddies Inc. said the ad was first displayed next to the oldest gay bar in London and was displayed at a second location several metres away from London's largest gay club. In selecting both locations, they took into account the proximity to gay clubs, where they believed the ads were most likely to be seen by their target audience and they ensured the ad was not within viewing distance of schools or businesses that provided children-based services.
Online Buddies said the image showed one of the men with his arm casually draped around the other's shoulder, that the men were about to kiss but also that their bodies were barely touching. Although they believed that the image was mildly sexually suggestive, they did not consider their body language was overtly sexual. They believed that the image used was the most appropriate way to convey their product – they were a company which served a gay male audience and therefore, the image was relevant. They did not believe that the ad was offensive.
Primesight, the outdoor media owner which displayed the ad, said the ad first appeared in a location which carried a placement restriction for alcohol ads. Once they became aware the ASA had received complaints, they moved the ad to the second location, which was also not within viewing distance of schools. They subsequently sought Copy Advice and were advised that the image was sexualised and likely to be investigated.
Primesight understood the same ad was appearing worldwide and they discussed the ad internally with senior staff before accepting it. They felt the ad would not be considered as inappropriate and they were therefore happy to run the campaign.
1. Not Upheld
The ASA noted Online Buddies had booked locations which were close to gay clubs but which were also away from schools or businesses that offered children-based services and that they believed both the locations and image were relevant to the advertised product. We understood the ad was a large billboard and that all the complainants had seen it in its first location before it had been moved. We acknowledged Online Buddies' attempts to restrict the ad, both before it was displayed and after they became aware of complaints made to the ASA.
We recognised that the image in the ad was relevant to the advertised product. However, we noted that the couple were shown bare-chested and from the chest up only and it was therefore unclear whether they were naked or not. We noted that the eyes of one man were closed whilst the eyes of the other appeared to be seductively looking at him and that their lips were parted as if they were about to kiss. Although we considered the image could be seen as sexual and the ad's size could draw attention to the sexual nature of their embrace, we considered the image of the embracing couple who were about to kiss was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not Upheld
We noted that both Online Buddies and Primesight had given the poster's location careful consideration so as to avoid schools and businesses that provided children-based services. We considered the ad was sexually suggestive, rather than overtly sexual. Because of that, we considered the ad was inappropriate for children to see and therefore, it warranted a placement restriction to prevent it from being displayed within 100 m of schools. We understood that such a restriction had already been applied and we therefore concluded that in this instance, the placement of the ad was not socially irresponsible.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.