A poster ad, for a DIY store, was viewed on 7 November 2011. It included the text "Mems, Always HAMMERING Down Prices" along with an image of a woman wearing a bra, denim hot pants, a tool belt and a hard hat. She was holding a hammer and pulled at the front of her shorts with her other hand.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, because she believed it was:
1. overtly sexual; and
2. sexist and objectified women.
1. & 2. Mems DIY said "... HAMMERING Down Prices" was an obvious play on the word 'hammer' and was intended to emphasise the fact that low prices were being offered by referring to a product sold by them and used by their customers. They said that in order to reinforce that point, a person in the ad, coincidentally a woman, was holding a hammer. They said the woman was wearing a hard hat and a tool belt, as well as standing next to a ladder, to further illustrate the nature of the business. She was at the far left-hand side of the ad, most of which was made up text and contact details; none of the wording was linked, overtly or otherwise, to the woman's body. They said there was no explicit nudity and the woman's pose was not overtly sexual; her hand was resting in, or on, the tool belt not her shorts. They said products and services were supplied by them to everyone, regardless of gender and while they could have considered depicting both a man and a woman in the ad that would have resulted in a greater emphasis on human figures than was considered necessary or appropriate. They said they did not intend to cause offence but did not believe the ad was overtly sexual or sexist.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted the ad appeared in an untargeted medium. We noted the woman in the image was wearing a lacy bra and very short denim shorts, which she appeared to be pulling down at the front; she was also pouting. We disagreed that her hand was clearly resting on the tool belt. We considered the woman's pose and dress was sexually provocative and had the effect of making her appear sexually available. We also considered the text "... Always HAMMERING Down Prices" in conjunction with the image could be interpreted as innuendo. Although she was holding a hammer and wearing items related to DIY, we considered a sexually provocative image of a woman bore no relation to the product being advertised and that the ad therefore objectified the woman by portraying her as a sexual object. We considered the ad was overtly sexual and, because it objectified women, was also sexist. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and that it was irresponsible for such an image to appear in an untargeted medium.
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. We told Mems DIY to ensure future marketing communications were prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and that, particularly in an untargeted medium, they did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.