A magazine ad for photography insurance, seen in October 2011, featured three men, each wearing a different style of underwear. The man at the front was topless and wearing a pair of tight blue trunks. The man behind him on the left was topless and wearing a blue thong, with his hips visible. The man on the right was also topless and wearing a skimpy blue posing pouch-style thong which covered his genitals but left his hips and part of his pubic region visible. Text stated "aaduki multimedia insurance" and "Can't see the wood for the trees".
The complainant, who considered the ad was sexist and degrading to men, challenged whether it was offensive.
Aaduki Multimedia Insurance (Aaduki) said they were renowned in the photographic market for the 'Aaduki Boys" , a group of male models that they used to advertise their brand at exhibitions and conventions. They said that they featured heavily in their advertising campaigns, wearing sparkly shorts with the Aaduki brand on, so they were instantly recognisable when seen at an exhibition.
Aaduki said that the ad was designed to be "tongue in cheek" with innuendo, in a similar style to 70s 'Carry On' films. They considered it was suggestive and naughty without being obscene and was designed to amuse the reader. The ad appeared in Professional Photographer which was a title aimed at professional photographers within the UK and often had images in it that some might have construed as pornographic or degrading to both men and women but were merely used to illustrate different photographic techniques and how to produce stunning images.
Aaduki said they did not believe that the ad was sexist as it was designed to be fun and they were not aware of any other complaints about the ad which had been running for 18 months and featured heavily in professional titles during this time. Aaduki said that the ad challenged the stereotypical view of photographers in the industry which tended to be white, middle-aged and male dominated. They actively promoted using male models in an attempt to bring humour to a very mundane subject (insurance) by adding fun, provoking debate and being different.
The ASA noted Aaduki's response that the ad was meant to be suggestive and naughty but not obscene. We considered the image of the three men in their underwear and noted the man on the back right of the image wore underwear which was revealing and left part of his hips and pubic region on display. Although we noted Aaduki's argument that 'Aaduki Boys' has been used before in their marketing material and would be well known, nonetheless we noted that the ad was for multimedia insurance and that the image bore no relation to the advertised service. Further to this, we considered that the strapline "Can't see the wood for the trees" was an obvious reference to male genitalia which drew readers' attention to the men's groins. For these reasons, taking the image and the strapline together, we concluded that the ad had the potential to cause serious offence to some people.
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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.