An ad seen on the TV listings website www.radiotimes.com for the Russian Bride website, www.russianbrides.com. The ad featured a woman, visible from the chest up, wearing a low-cut bra, looking up at the camera with pouted lips. Text alongside the image stated "Sexy Russian Sensations … FLIRT NOW!"
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the ad was offensive, because it was overtly sexual; and
2. the ad was irresponsible, because it was inappropriately placed on a website that might be seen by children.
1. & 2. Anastasia International Inc t/a www.russianbrides.com (Anastasia International) did not response to the ASA's enquiries.
Immediate Media Company London Ltd, the publisher of Radio Times, said that the ad was served directly onto their website by their network trading partner. They said that while they did not have any direct control over the ads that were served onto their website, they had comprehensive block lists in place, which included specific categories and advertisers that were not accepted. However, in this instance, despite an automatic block on ads of an adult, provocative or suggestive nature, the ad was served onto their website. They said that after the ad appeared they received three complaints and they restricted the advertiser and contacted their trading partner to ensure the ad would not appear again. They said they had also placed an additional block on 'dating' ads to ensure another layer of protection was in place.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA was concerned by Anastasia International's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We welcomed the publisher's assurance that additional checks had been put in place to ensure this and similar ads would not appear again on their website.
We noted that the ad featured a woman in a provocative pose that focused on her cleavage, and her pursed lips appeared seductive in nature. We considered the text alongside the image heightened the overtly sexual nature of the ad. We also noted that the ad appeared on a general TV listings website. We therefore considered that the placement of the ad was inappropriate.
Because the ad was overtly sexual and appeared on untargeted medium, which could also be seen by children, we concluded that it was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) and
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form in untargeted media. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.