ASA Ruling on Converse Europe Ltd
Converse Europe Ltd t/a
17 Gresse Street
30 January 2013
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
A video ad for Converse boots, seen on www.last.fm, featured on-screen text which stated "DO CONVERSE MAKE BOOTS?" which was followed by scenes of women and the on-screen text "YES!", intercut with images of boots and the on-screen text "CONVERSE BOOTS!". The ad featured still images of a woman biting into chicken; a video clip of the upper torso of a woman in a bikini washing a car; a woman lifting her chin; and the upper torso of a woman in a bikini splashing water in the foreground, with two women in bikinis in the background. The pace of the editing quickened as the ad progressed. The ad did not feature sound.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive, explicit and sexist.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Converse Europe (Converse) said the ad was produced in a digital form only and did not feature in any other media formats. It ran on the Last FM website and on other digital networks and had ceased to be live, as had the wider campaign.
They said the ad and accompanying campaign were designed to raise awareness at a consumer level that Converse made boots in addition to the canvas shoes and high tops most widely associated with the brand. They used the simple question: "Do Converse make boots?" which was answered with a light-hearted, humorous parody of the much-quoted phrase "Yes, yes, yes" in an attempt to capture emphatically the answer to the question in a tongue-in-cheek manner. They said the intention was to be humorous rather than to push at the boundaries of what might be deemed sexually explicit. They stated that, although the banner images featured women, and some in bikinis, there was no nudity and they felt that the stylised production quality of the images and the speed at which the images followed each other meant that, even at face value, they were not overtly sexual to the point of being widely offensive. They said the images used simply showed women posing with a care-free attitude intended to convey excitement and a sense of abandonment rather than being explicitly sexist or in any other way derogatory toward women.
They said that the digital form used to publish the ad was a transitory medium, compared to the more traditional advertising mediums, and that was reflected in the fast pace in which the images followed each other in the ad. They felt that the focus of the ad was therefore not on the female images but rather those images contributed equally with the slogans and product shots to promote the goods in a light-hearted digital "soundbite". They explained that ads within the wider campaign copied imagery often associated with digital media: for instance, in banner usage, an excess of kittens and attractive women were used. They stated that that approach was intended as a humorous comment on pop culture and these devices were used to attract consumer attention in specific media spaces, but they did not consider that the ad could reasonably be deemed offensive.
They said the ad had been predominately targeted at a young audience and the ad was unlikely to cause widespread offence among that demographic, who were familiar with fast-paced internet advertising, the Converse brand and were likely to engage with the humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone of the ad.
Last FM said they had received no complaints about the ad. They said Last FM had a bias towards 18- to 24-year-old males and felt the ad was typical of the sort of edgy advertising that was typically associated with that demographic and brands of that kind. They explained that anyone could access Last FM without requiring registration, but users could register to personalise their site experience and could, at a charge, remove advertising all together. They added that, as the majority of their website users were aged 16+ (93%) and 18+ (85.4%), limited targeting was applied to the campaign. They explained that they did so by targeting the top 150 bands/artists which their algorithms showed to be the most popular and which were trending with the 16- to 24-year old age group and did not explicitly target 16-to 24-year olds by user profile/demographic information.
The ASA noted that the ad featured images of women with varying expressions and dress, quickly intercut with images of Converse boots and the repeated on-screen text "YES!". Although we acknowledged that some of the women's expressions, in combination with the repeated text "YES!", would be interpreted by some viewers to be suggestive of an orgasm, we also noted that the text "YES!" appeared in response to the question "DO CONVERSE MAKE BOOTS?" and considered that the images and approach were intended to be humorous and tongue-in-cheek, and that most viewers would see it as a comical parody, rather than sexually suggestive or explicit.
We considered that the images of the women in bikinis were fleeting and brief. We noted that one woman was wearing her bikini near palm trees and another appeared to be having a water fight, which suggested circumstances where women might ordinarily be in bikinis, and therefore did not consider the use of those images was gratuitous, exploitative or sexist.
Whilst we accepted that some of the images and the humour used in the ad might not appeal to all tastes, we considered that the average viewer would recognise the ad as comical and tongue-in-cheek and considered it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to audiences. We therefore concluded that the ad was not in breach of the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.