Ad description

Three online display ads for online dating service SofiaDate, seen in May 2022:

a. The first ad, seen on the Dorset Echo’s website, featured an image of a woman on a balcony with text that stated “Ukranian [sic] Women. Meet Thousands of Lonely Ukrainian Women. Forget About Loneliness. Let Yourself be Happy”.

b. The second ad, seen on Scottish newspaper The National’s website, featured the same image as ad (a) with text that stated “Ukranian [sic] Women. Connecting Singles Across the World to Their Ideal Partner…”.

c. The third ad, seen on the same website as ad (b), featured an image of a woman in front of a sunset with text that stated “Ukranian [sic] Women …”.


The complainants, who felt the ads were inappropriate in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine, challenged whether they were offensive.


Astrasoft Projects Ltd t/a SofiaDate said they had removed the ads and would check their other advertising to ensure it complied with the Code.

The National and Newsquest Media Group Ltd t/a Dorset Echo said the ads were ostensibly conventional dating ads, although potentially clumsily sexist in their portrayal of women from a male perspective. The ads did not refer to the war in Ukraine, were not partisan, and were also not unsympathetic towards Ukrainian women or the Ukrainian people in general. They said that on reflection the ads could be inconsistent with their policy of refusing ads for prostitution and trafficking, and confirmed the ads had since been removed from their newspapers, and they would block the advertiser from the Newsquest network.



The ASA understood that due to the ongoing war in Ukraine there was heightened sensitivity about references to the country, and the vulnerability of Ukrainian women had become an area of public concern. At the time the ads were seen, the UK Government had initiated a scheme that encouraged members of the public and other organisations to house Ukrainian refugees. We understood the scheme had raised valid concerns about the safety and wellbeing of single Ukrainian women who were involved in it.

We considered that the women depicted in the ads were shown in a way that was, at least partly, designed to titillate readers – the model in ads (a) and (b) wore a low-cut kimono-style robe, and the model in ad (c) wore a body-hugging midi dress. Ads (b) and (c) featured wording that was fairly typical for dating services, whereas ad (a) stated “Meet Thousands of Lonely Ukrainian Women” and that readers should “Forget About Loneliness”.

We considered the ads’ focus on Ukrainian women dressed in the aforementioned manner, as well references to their loneliness, had the effect of highlighting their vulnerability and connecting it to their sexual appeal. For that reason, we concluded the ads were likely to cause serious offence.

The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule  4.1 4.1 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: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. 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 ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Astrasoft Projects Ltd t/a SofiaDate to ensure their future advertising did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

CAP Code (Edition 12)


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