ASA Ruling on Unilever Bestfoods UK Ltd
Unilever Bestfoods UK Ltd
28 August 2002
Food and drink
HHCL & Partners
Objections to a poster for Pot Noodle. The poster showed a picture of the product that was called "Hot Noodle BOMBAY BAD BOY FLAVOUR". Above the container, in red neon lights, were the words "HURT ME YOU SLAG". The complainants objected that the poster was:
1. unsuitable as a poster and offensive and
2. irresponsible because it seemed to condone, or could encourage, personal violence.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. Complaints upheld
The advertisers said Pot Noodle was a quick and cheap snack for 16-24 year olds. They said they had intended the advertisement to poke fun at the product and to convey the heat element of Hot Noodle and to do that they created the line "Hurt me you Slag". The advertisers said the poster campaign ran alongside a television campaign that also used the line "Hurt me". They said they had understood from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Copy Advice team that use of the word "slag" on posters was acceptable. The advertisers said that, in response to requests from two poster site owners, they consulted the CAP Copy Advice team about the use of the line "Hurt me you Slag" and were advised that it was likely to be unsuitable for posters because its implication of sado-masochism was likely to be offensive. They said they tried to follow the advice but were able to use an alternative poster on about 70% of the poster sites only. The advertisers said that, because of the complaints, they intended to remove the posters on the remaining sites. The Authority considered that, because of its implication of sexual violence, the line "Hurt me you slag" was unsuitable for use in an advertisement in any medium. It concluded that the poster was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. The Authority welcomed the advertisers' decision to remove the posters but advised them to seek and follow advice given by the CAP Copy Advice team before they had advertisements printed in future.
2. Complaints upheld
The advertisers said they had not intended to condone or encourage personal violence. They maintained that the poster was merely part of a campaign that advertised the product in a humorous way. The advertisers reiterated that "slag" was a reference to the product and consumers who had seen the televised commercial, in which a man said "Hurt me" directly to the pot, would realise the poster did not refer to personal violence. The Authority considered that readers were unlikely to engage in violent acts because of the poster. It nevertheless considered that, in the context of the poster, the words "Hurt me you slag" were likely to be interpreted as condoning personal violence. The Authority concluded that the poster was irresponsible and told the advertisers to use a different approach in future. It welcomed the advertisers' decision to remove the posters or use different words.