A TV ad for condoms, shown directly after Ice Age 4 at 9.32 pm on Sky Movies Premiere, opened with a scene of a woman lying in a half-sunken boat before it panned out to show her being caressed by a man. Both actors were clothed. The ad cut to show another woman holding a condom packet in her hand. A voice-over said, "Great sex is ... when it's so powerful you can't stop feeling the intensity all over." The woman in the boat then pushed the man partially underwater and a bottle of sexual lubricant was seen falling through the water. Various scenes then showed couples in sensual embraces in locations including the half-sunken boat, a corral and a crowded bar. A dog, which picked up and ran off with a pair of underwear, was then shown. The voice-over then said, "When great sex moves you, nothing else matters. Love sex." The same text appeared on screen, along with pack shots of a selection of sexual health products.
The ad had been cleared by Clearcast with a post 9 pm scheduling restriction.
A viewer challenged whether the ad had been appropriately scheduled because it had been shown directly after a programme that was likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16.
British Sky Broadcasting Ltd apologised for any distress the scheduling of the ad may have caused any of their viewers. They said the ad was approved by Clearcast with a TN restriction that stated that the ad should not be transmitted before 9 pm.
British Sky Broadcasting said they had analysed both historical and predicted ratings for the going-in and end breaks of previous films scheduled at that time, and those ratings had indicated levels well below the threshold for children between four and nine years of age, which led to the decision being made for the ad to be scheduled at 9.32 pm. They said the live post-transmission ratings showed that the film and ad break achieved a 0% ratings index for children between the ages of four and nine.
British Sky Broadcasting said they recognised that the scheduling of the ad had caused an issue and said they would ensure that the ad, and any others like it, was not scheduled around Ice Age 4 or any other movie of a similar genre and certificate.
The ASA noted that, whilst the ad did not show nudity or sexual activity, it contained scenes that showed couples in sensual embraces and included one scene that showed a woman who sat on top of a man, which could be interpreted as alluding to sexual activity. We also considered that the tone of the voice-over heightened the sensual nature of the ad. We noted one scene featured a condom packet in an actor's hand which, in the overall context of the ad, we considered to be a clear reference to anticipated sexual activity.
We considered that the sexual content of the ad was not appropriate for children and we considered the 9 pm restriction to be appropriate. However, we noted the Code required broadcasters to exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of ads and to put in place internal systems to avoid unsuitable juxtapositions of ads and programmes. We noted that the ad was shown at around 9.32 pm on a Saturday evening directly after the transmission of the film "Ice Age 4". The film had a BBFC rating of 'U', which meant it was suitable for children over four years of age and should not contain an overt focus on sexual behaviour, language or innuendo. We considered that the film was commissioned for and likely to appeal particularly to children from the age of four upwards.
We considered that older children were likely to understand the references to sexual activity in the ad. Although we acknowledged that younger children may not understand those references, the ad promoted a brand of condoms and therefore fell within a specific age-restricted product provision of the BCAP Code that prohibited it being shown in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 10.
Because we considered that the ad had been scheduled around a programme that was commissioned for and likely to appeal particularly to children, including those under 10 years old, we concluded the ad had not met the scheduling requirements arising from the product classification and had been broadcast at an unsuitable time.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners.
(Scheduling of television and radio advertisements),
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.
We told British Sky Broadcasting to take more care with their scheduling in future.