Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld.
An ad in Match Fishing magazine, headed "BROKEN YOUR POLE?", included an image of a woman, seen from behind, wearing only a bra and thong. Her hands were placed on her buttocks, and half of a broken pole was superimposed into each hand. Text underneath the image stated "DON'T DESPAIR WE CAN REPAIR! Crushed or broken sections, split or worn joints, full pole refurbishment. All repairs using high-grade carbon cloth and fully guaranteed".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the ad was offensive, because it was overtly sexual and demeaning to women, particularly those who were interested in angling, and because it bore no relationship to the service advertised; and
2. the ad was irresponsible, because it was inappropriately placed in a magazine that might be read by children.
Esselle Pole Repairs (Esselle) said they had been placing the ad in four different magazines since 2006 without objection from the magazines or members of the public. They said the ad was not intended to be sexist or to degrade women or the female form; rather, they considered it represented a celebration of the female form. They said they used the image of the woman because it would attract far more attention than, for example, a picture of a broken pole.
The publisher of the magazine, David Hall Publishing (DHP), said the ad had been appearing in two of their angling magazines since 2006. They said that if the image was offensive they would have had complaints and Esselle would have suffered from bad publicity. They said that the ad was suitable because it related to repairing fishing poles, and children would not understand the innuendo.
The ASA noted the ad featured an image of an almost-naked woman, and that, although the image was not sexually explicit, it had sexual connotations. We noted the image bore no real relevance to the advertised services, and considered it was likely to be seen to degrade and demean women by linking pole-dancing to fishing-pole repairs. We concluded the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some people.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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).
We noted the complainant had purchased the magazine for her young daughter, who was involved in a junior angling club. We considered it likely that children would represent only a small proportion of the readership of the magazine but nonetheless considered that the ad was not suitable to be published in a magazine where it could be viewed by children. We concluded the ad was irresponsible.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising).
The ad must not appear again. We told Esselle to take greater care to ensure their ads would not cause offence in future.