An ad that appeared on Facebook was headed, "Older Men Wanted". Text below read, "datematures.com. Browse local singles who are looking to date Older Men Only at Date Matures!" Next to this text was a picture of a young woman wearing what appeared to be a school uniform: her head and upper torso in frame; what was visible of her shirt was unbuttoned and the tie was hanging loosely around her neck.
The complainant, who believed the intention of the ad was to portray the model as a school aged child, challenged whether the ad was offensive, harmful and irresponsible.
Mate1.com Inc did not respond to our enquiries.
Facebook said the ad was in violation of their Advertising Guidelines and had been disabled, as had any other ads using the same image. They had also issued the advertiser with a warning.
The ASA was concerned by Mate1.com Inc's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We noted the model in the ad appeared to be wearing a school uniform with the shirt unbuttoned, revealing her upper chest. We considered the model would be understood by readers as being of school age, due to her youthful appearance and the impression that she was wearing a school uniform.
In the context of the other claims in the ad, "Older Men Wanted", "datemature.com" and "Browse local singles who are looking to date Older Men Only at Date Matures!", and the fact that the ad appeared on a social networking site, we considered that the image was irresponsible because it could be understood as an allusion to, and encouragement of, the so-called 'grooming' of young children. For these same reasons we considered that the ad was likely to cause serious and widespread offence.
Under CAP Code rule 5.1 5.1 Marketing communications addressed to, targeted directly at or featuring children must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm: ads featuring children "must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm" and under rule 5.1.1 5.1.1 children must not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers "children must not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers". Although the ad appeared to be targeting "Older Men", we considered the implication that young children could also join the dating service, in order to meet older men, was a breach of these Code rules.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
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) and 5.1 5.1 Marketing communications addressed to, targeted directly at or featuring children must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm: and 5.1.1 5.1.1 children must not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers (Children).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.