Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A regional press ad for The Breakfast Club cafe, advertising Christmas meals, seen in the Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper on 9 November 2015. The ad featured a cartoon snowman that held a carrot which pointed out from the groin area and two pixilated reindeer that appeared to be mating.
The complainant, whose five-year-old child saw the ad, challenged whether:
1. the ad was offensive; and
2. was irresponsibly targeted.
1. Catsteps Cafes Ltd t/a The Breakfast Club said that as a family run business they had not intended to offend consumers. They said the ad was ‘tongue in cheek’ which poked fun at generic Christmas advertising. They said that they appreciated that some may have interpreted their humour to be distasteful.
2. The Breakfast Club said that before publication, they had asked the Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper whether or not they deemed the ad appropriate for their readership and the newspaper agreed that it was acceptable. The Breakfast Club understood that the newspaper had not received any complaints about the ad.
1. & 2. Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper said the ad was supplied after their usual deadlines and because of that it was ‘fast-tracked’ to the printers without the usual editorial scrutiny. They said they had informed The Breakfast Club that they would not print similar ads in future because it did not meet their usual standards.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA welcomed Brighton & Hove Independent’s assurance that they would not print similar ads in future. We noted that the image of the snowman was very prominent in the ad and it appeared the carrot was positioned in order to resemble an erect penis. We also considered that that image, together with the smaller image of the two reindeer, that appeared to be mating, conveyed a sexual tone to the ad.
We understood that the Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper was freely distributed and could therefore be picked-up by consumers within the distribution area. We therefore considered that it was likely to be seen by a wide audience range including children. Furthermore, we understood that the complainant had been browsing through the newspaper with their five-year-old child who was likely to have seen the ad.
We therefore concluded that the overtly sexualised tone of the ad, seen in an untargeted medium, was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and it was irresponsible because of its placement in a freely available newspaper.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) and
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. We told Catsteps Cafes Ltd t/a The Breakfast Club to ensure their ads were not overtly sexual when published in an untargeted medium.