Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, of which one was Upheld and two were Not Upheld.
A TV ad promoted Beats Pill speakers.
The ad featured Robin Thicke, performing his single "Blurred Lines", and three female models. Throughout the ad, the song was played with the lyrics "Everybody get up ... Good girl, I know you want it, I know you want it, I know you want it, you're a good girl, can't let it get past me, you're far from plastic, talk about getting blasted, I hate these blurred lines."
The ad opened with a close-up shot of one of the women holding the Beats Pill against her chin as she mimed to the words "Everybody get up". Throughout the ad, the women were shown wearing crop tops and hot pants as they danced and interacted with Robin Thicke and the product. In one scene they were shown lifting Beats Pills as if they were dumbbells and in another, one of the women was shown holding a Beats Pill in a hotdog bun. Another shot showed all the women dressed in see-through nurses' uniforms over their hot pants and crop tops. The following shot showed one model looking through two Beats Pills as if they were binoculars. Towards the end, a woman was shown kneeling on her hands and knees with a Beats Pill laid on her back.
The ASA received 97 complaints about the ad.
1. A number of the complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive because it was sexist, objectified women and was degrading to women.
2. A number of the complainants challenged whether the ad was inappropriate to be broadcast at a time when children would be watching TV, because they believed it was overtly sexual.
3. Some complainants challenged whether the models featured were irresponsibly thin.
1. & 2. Beats Electronics International Ltd (Beats) explained that the content of the ad was based on the video for Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" and that it featured characters from the "Blurred Lines" video interacting with the product in a number of different fun ways, to show how portable and convenient the product was. Beats said the ad was not intended to be offensive or to encourage any inappropriate stereotypes, and they strongly believed that was not its effect. They believed that the women depicted were confident, self-assured individuals who were not subservient to the male character, and in most scenes were shown leading the action rather than playing passive roles. Beats also argued that the women gave a strong sense of being somewhat unimpressed by the male character, and were shown ignoring him in a number of the scenes.
Beats did not believe that the ad was overtly sexual and highlighted that while the women's legs, arms and midriffs were bare, other parts of their bodies were covered. In addition, they believed that although the women were attractive there was no overt reference to sexual activity. They said, to the extent that there was any innuendo around the shape of the product, it was very mild and light-hearted and would not have been picked up by children. They said the dominant images were of the product being used as dumbbells, a hotdog, binoculars and medicine, which were strong, playful images that most viewers would not see as having any sexual connotation.
Beats said their target audience for the ad was the 16 to 34 age bracket and the media had been bought with that target in mind.
Clearcast stated that the ad was not overtly sexual and instead was playful and comic in tone. They believed the models featured were not dressed inappropriately and while they were wearing less than Robin Thicke, who wore a suit, they were wearing clothes that suited the scenes in which they appeared. They highlighted that for most of the ad the models were shown in crop tops and pants, which wouldn't seem particularly out of place in summer. They also said in the scene where the product was used as dumbbells, the models were shown in similar clothing to what might be worn in the gym. In the scene where the product was shown wheeled across the scene on a medical trolley, a pun of the name "pill", the models were shown wearing comedy nurses' outfits, which although see-through, were worn over crop tops and pants, and the effect was more comic than sexual. Clearcast also believed that in the scenes where the product was used as binoculars and a hotdog, they again were comic scenes which added to the playful and silly tone of the ad, and were not overtly sexual.
For those reasons, Clearcast also thought the ad was not sexist or chauvinistic. They said there was no leering or threatening tone to Robin Thicke's interaction with the models, but that they walked and danced around him, sometimes with him, but mostly ignored him. They did not believe the women were shown to be subservient to him and that the ad was not sexist and did not degrade them.
In relation to point 2 specifically, Clearcast stated that because the ad did contain slight sexual themes, they provided guidance to broadcasters which suggested that they might wish to view the ad to determine its acceptability for transmission in programmes appealing to children under nine years of age. They did not believe it contained anything so overtly sexual or offensive to merit a timing restriction.
3. Beats stated that the women had been selected for their similarity to the models featured in the Robin Thicke music video. They said the women were models, but not unhealthily or irresponsibly slim.
Clearcast said they did not consider that the models appeared to be particularly thin, and certainly were not irresponsibly so.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad was intended to be playful and comic, and its content was based on the "Blurred Lines" music video and served to show the portable and convenient nature of the Beats Pill product.
We considered that a number of scenes, such as those in which the women were dressed as nurses, were holding the Pill in a hotdog roll and using the product as dumbbells, were sexually suggestive. We also noted that, in comparison to a fully clothed Robin Thicke, the women were shown in crop tops and hot pants, dancing and interacting with the product, and that the ad included a number of shots of their bottoms and exposed midriffs, with their heads obscured. In addition we noted that the women were often looking directly at the camera, pouting or putting their fingers near, or to, their mouths. We also noted the final scene, when one of the women was shown on all fours, in what we considered to be a provocative position, with the product on her back.
However, while we accepted that some viewers might find elements of the ad distasteful, particularly the shots of the women's bodies with their heads obscured and the shot of the woman on all fours, we considered that those shots were brief, and when taken as a whole, the ad did not show sustained, overtly sexual or provocative behaviour. We also considered that most viewers would recognise the stylised nature of the ad and understand that it was reflective of a music video. Therefore, whilst we acknowledged a number of viewers might find the content of the ad distasteful, we did not consider that the ad was likely to result in widespread or serious offence and concluded that it was not in breach of the Code.
On that point, we investigated the under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising) and 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
The ASA noted that both Beats and Clearcast believed that the ad was only mildly sexual in nature, playful and comical, and that children would not understand the mild innuendo associated with the shape and use of the product in the ad. We noted that the ad did not contain any explicit nudity or intimate interaction between the characters, but did include shots focusing on the women's headless bodies and a number of sexually suggestive scenes. Therefore, we considered the overall tone of the ad was sexual, and concluded that the ad was not suitable for broadcast before 7.30 pm.
On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rule 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Under-16s).
3. Not upheld
We noted that all the women featured in the ad were slim, and that the outfits they were wearing, along with the shots of their bodies and of them dancing and "working out" using the product, emphasised their body shape. We considered, however, that the ad was stylised and reflective of the characters and images generally seen in music videos, and that the models did not look underweight. We therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.
On that point, we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising), and 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not be broadcast again before 7.30 pm.