Cookies policy statement
We are using cookies on our site to provide you with the best user experience.
Disabling cookies may prevent our website from working efficiently. Click ok to remove this message (we will remember your choice).
OK

ASA Adjudication on Pussy Drinks Ltd

Pussy Drinks Ltd

Suite 9
Exhibition House
Addison Bridge Place
London
W14 8XP

Date:

24 April 2013

Media:

Poster

Sector:

Food and drink

Number of complaints:

156

Complaint Ref:

A13-220111

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Six issues were investigated, of which two were Upheld and four were Not upheld.

Ad

Two posters and a website promoted an energy drink:

a. A poster, which appeared in various locations across the UK, stated "pussy" in large, bold text in the centre of the ad. Smaller text below stated 'The drink's pure, it's your mind that's the problem". Text on an image of the product stated "pussy natural energy" and text below the image stated "100% Natural Energy".

b. A second poster, which also appeared in various locations across the UK, stated "Outrageous" in large, bold text in the centre of the ad. Smaller text below stated "An energy drink that actually tastes good". Large text to the left of the headline stated "pussy" and smaller text below stated "NATURAL ENERGY 100% Natural Ingredients".

c. Claims on www.pussydrinks.com stated "THE DRINK'S PURE It's your mind that's the problem. 100% Natural Energy". Smaller text at the bottom of the home page stated "Our goal is Global Pussyfication and we aim to bring Pussy within everyone's reach" and invited those interested in distributing the product to contact them.

Issue

There were 156 complainants about the ads.

1. Most complainants challenged whether ad (a) was offensive, because they considered it implied a sexually explicit reference. Some complainants also considered it was derogatory, sexist and degrading towards women.

2. Some complainants also challenged whether ad (b) was offensive, on the same basis.

3. Two complainants challenged whether ad (a) was offensive to those with religious beliefs and was unsuitable to be displayed near to a church.

4. Many complainants also challenged whether ad (a) was unsuitable to appear where it could be seen by children.

5. Some complainants challenged whether ad (b) was unsuitable to appear where it could be seen by children.

6. Two complainants challenged whether ad (c) was offensive, because it implied a sexually explicit reference, was derogatory, sexist and degrading towards women.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. & 2. Pussy Drinks Ltd considered it ironic that complaints had been made about offence caused, given that their posters clearly stated that the drink was pure and it was the mind of the viewer that was the problem. They said the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) stated that a pussy was "a cat, particularly a kitten" and that was the correct meaning of the word. They said cats possessed all the appropriate symbolism for their product and Pussy was cool, beautiful, feline and natural, with attitude, which explained their choice of name. They stated that until the OED changed the meaning of the word, they defended their right to advertise their product. They questioned why the complainants were automatically referring to the slang meaning of what they believed to be an innocent word. They said it was not their intention to offend, that the slang meaning of the word was not one that they had created, and that any problems were only caused by those who were twisting the meaning of an innocent word.

JC Decaux said they had received one complaint directly. The complainant had found the poster offensive and said there had been a great deal of discussion about the issue on social media sites.

3. The advertisers questioned which religion would be specifically offended by Pussy. They said the ancient Egyptians used to worship cats. They felt that people of a religious disposition tended to occupy an idyllic place away from the crassness that sadly existed in mainstream society and therefore felt it was surprising that the complaints had been made.

4. & 5. The advertisers questioned whether the complaints were from children and believed the complaints were from adults with an adult perspective on the slang meaning of the word. They felt that the complainants were assuming that children were aware of the slang meaning, and if that was the case, they considered it was likely that the children had heard the slang meaning from those adults, who now claimed they wished to protect those children. They stated that, to a child, a pussy was a cat or kitten and did not consider that was offensive. They said the inspiration for the product and white can design was a gorgeous white pussycat owned by a family member as a child.

6. The advertisers did not provide any further comments about the website content specifically.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA considered that some consumers would recognise that the term "pussy" had both a conventional and slang meaning and could therefore be understood to colloquially refer to the female genitals, as well as retaining the traditional meaning of 'cat' or 'kitten'. We noted that ad (a) stated "The drink's pure, it's your mind that's the problem" and considered that the ad consciously made reference to the dual meaning of the word "pussy", including its colloquial meaning, which some would consider sexually explicit, as well as showing an awareness that the colloquial use of the term "pussy" might be considered impure or problematic, and could therefore cause offence.

We acknowledged that 63 complainants had objected that the term "pussy" was, in itself, a derogatory and sexist term, which was particularly offensive to women. Although we considered that the colloquial meaning of "pussy" could be understood to be a sexually explicit term, we noted that the way in which the term "pussy" was used in the ads did not make express reference to women, beyond its colloquial meaning denoting the female genitals. We did not consider that ad (a) made particular reference to the behaviour or portrayal of women and, therefore, did not consider that, in that context, ad (a) was likely to be interpreted by most consumers as referring to or portraying women in a derogatory or sexist way.

However, we nonetheless concluded that because ad (a) made express reference to the dual meaning of the word "pussy", it would be understood to be intended as a sexually explicit reference which, in the context in which it appeared in ad (a), was likely to cause serious and widespread offence.

On that point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).

2. Not upheld

Although we considered that some consumers would recognise that the term "pussy" had a colloquial meaning denoting the female genitals, we considered there were no other references in ad (b) which promoted or highlighted that colloquial meaning or reinforced a sexually explicit connotation. We therefore concluded that most consumers would consider that ad (b) was featuring the name and packaging of a branded product and was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

On that point, we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.

3. Not upheld

We noted that ad (a) did not make any express or implied reference to any religion, faith or religious terms or practices and did not consider that ad (a) would be interpreted as having a different or particular meaning to those with religious beliefs. Therefore, although we considered that ad (a) would cause serious and widespread offence in general, as set out under point 1, and was therefore unsuitable to appear across the UK in an untargeted medium, we did not consider that it would cause particular offence to those with religious beliefs because of their faith.

On that point, we investigated ad (a) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.

4. Upheld

We noted that there were no restrictions on the placement of ad (a) and it would be seen by children of all ages, but considered that very young children were unlikely to be aware of the colloquial meaning of "pussy". We considered, however, that some older children were likely to know and understand that colloquial meaning or be aware that the term had a secondary meaning which had a different connotation or impact than simply meaning 'cat' or 'kitten'.

We noted that the slogan in ad (a) stated "The drink's pure, it's your mind that's the problem" and considered that strongly suggested that the term "pussy" had a secondary meaning which was not "pure" and was a "problem", and considered that slogan reinforced the colloquial meaning of "pussy" to those older children or implied that that secondary, colloquial meaning was in some way impolite or even offensive or sexually explicit.

We therefore considered that because ad (a) made express reference to the dual meaning of the word "pussy", it would be understood by some older children to be intended as an offensive or sexually explicit reference, and concluded that ad (a) was unsuitable to appear where it could be seen by children.

On that point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).

5. Not upheld

We noted that there were no restrictions on the placement of ad (b) and would be seen by children of all ages, but considered that very young children were unlikely to be aware of the colloquial meaning of "pussy". Although we recognised that some older children were likely to be aware that the term had a colloquial meaning and would understand that meaning, we noted that ad (b) did not make any references which promoted or highlighted the colloquial meaning or which reinforced the colloquial meaning in particular. We therefore considered that children would infer that the term in ad (b) was being used as it was the name of the product and appeared on the product branding and packaging. We therefore concluded that it was not unsuitable to appear in an untargeted medium.

On that point, we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.

6. Not upheld

We noted that, in order to access the Pussy Drinks website, consumers would have to actively Google or search for the product name, or input the website address into a web browser and therefore understood that the website's claims did not appear in an untargeted context to which readers would be inadvertently exposed.

We acknowledged that, as set out under point 1, "pussy" could be understood to be a sexually explicit term. However, we also noted that it was the name of the product. Therefore, whilst we acknowledged that the ad's claims might be very distasteful to some consumers, we considered that, in the context of a website promoting its own product and brand, which was accessed by consumers aware of the product name and who were searching for further information or advertising regarding the product, we concluded that the ad's claims were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

On that point, we investigated ad (c) CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.

Action

Ad (a) must not appear again in its current form.

Follow Us

For ASA news, including our weekly rulings, press releases, research and reports.
 

How to comply with the rules

For advice and training on the Advertising Codes please visit the CAP website.

Make a complaint

Find out what types of ads we deal with and how to make a complaint.

Press Zone

This section is for journalists only. Here you will be able to access embargoed material, breaking news and briefing papers as well as profile details for the ASA press office.