Summary of Council's decision:
Two issues were investigated, of which one was Upheld and the other Not upheld.
A TV ad for Bedworld featured both sales persons and customers talking about beds and mattresses which were available with free shipping. The ad opened with a family's conversation with a salesman, "Ship this bed. Ship this bed? You can ship the bed right here at bedworld.net". The ad cut to two young children who asked, "Dad, can we ship this bed?" Another salesman said "I've just shipped this mattress." An older couple said, "We've just shipped this bed ... and it felt great." A further salesman said, "I ship thousands of beds and mattresses all over the UK. Visit www.bedworld.net now and ship your bed for free."
The ASA received 10 complaints.
1. Ten complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive because they believed the word "ship" had been substituted in place of a swear word.
2. Five complainants challenged whether the ad had been scheduled inappropriately at times when children may be watching television.
1. & 2. Bedworld (North) Ltd regretted any distress the ad may have caused a parent or child, and that was not their intention. The voice-over described the nature of their online business and they wanted to put across their excitement that they were able to ship a bed free of charge. In addition, there were signs in and around the showroom featured in the ad which stated "free shipping". They believed that signage reinforced the voice-over and overall message of free shipping. They checked all of the sound bites in the ad and were satisfied that actors had clearly pronounced the word "ship" throughout the ad. Although they acknowledged ten viewers had been offended, they did not consider the ad breached the Code.
Clearcast said the ad was approved on the premise that Bedworld shipped beds for free anywhere in mainland UK. They checked the sound recording and were assured that everyone was clearly saying “shipped”. Clearcast acknowledged that “ship” and “shit” sounded alike and that there was an element of cheekiness to the ad, but they felt, nevertheless, the emphasis of the ad was clearly on “shipped”. They echoed Bedworld's comments that signage in the background of the ad reinforced that message. Because of the ad's message, they considered a timing restriction was unnecessary. For those reasons, they cleared the ad for broadcast.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered Bedworld had used word play to draw attention to their offer of free shipping; an offer which we considered was evident from the signage in the showroom and the on-screen text at the end of the ad. We acknowledged that what had been said sounded similar to the expletive "shit"; however the actors were, in fact, saying "ship/ped". In the context of the ad, we considered that viewers who might have been offended by bad language were likely to recognise the pun being used and therefore were likely to understand what the actors were saying. For those reasons, we concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
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. (Social responsibility), 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. 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.
Five complainants were concerned the ad had been scheduled inappropriately and had been shown at times when children may have been watching. Clearcast cleared the ad without any scheduling restrictions which meant the ad could be shown at any time during the day, including during and around programmes targeted towards or of appeal to children. We understood from the complainants that they saw the ad, before, during and after Coronation Street, during This Morning and shortly before the national news at 6 pm. Based on the complainants' information, we considered the ad had appeared during programmes unlikely to appeal to or be targeted towards children.
As mentioned above, we acknowledged that, while the expletive had not been used, the two words did sound similar; we considered that younger viewers were unlikely to register the distinction between the two when spoken in the ad. We considered that "shit" was likely to be a word that parents may want their children to avoid, that children may already recognise as bad language and that was unsuitable for them. For those reasons, we considered a scheduling restriction should have been applied and because that was not the case, we concluded the scheduling of the ad breached the Code.
On this 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. (Scheduling).
The ad must not be broadcast again without a scheduling restriction.