The ASA received three complaints about Channel 5 Broadcasting's (Channel 5) poster ad in November and December 2011.
On 7 October 2011, the ASA issued new guidance on sexual imagery in outdoor advertising. That followed the publication of the independent report 'Letting Children be Children' by the Department for Education after a review by Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mother's Union, into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, and our own research into the views of parents and children about irresponsible advertising. The ASA's guidance informed the advertising industry that we would consider complaints about sexual imagery in outdoor advertising in light of the new evidence we had received about the public's views. In accordance with that guidance, we are considering Channel 5's ad in light of the complaints we have received.
A poster for a TV programme, on a roadside billboard, viewed in November 2011, featured a picture of a naked woman covered by two magazines. Text next to the picture stated "THE COVER GIRL. UNCOVERED ... STARTS NOVEMBER ... TAMARA ECCLESTONE: BILLION $$ GIRL ... NEW SERIES ... CHANNEL 5".
Three complainants challenged whether the depiction of nudity was:
1. offensive; and
2. inappropriate for public display, where it could be seen by children.
Channel 5 Broadcasting (Channel 5) said the ad was part of a campaign to promote a new documentary series. The aim of the series was to show "the naked truth" behind all the media coverage that Ms Ecclestone attracted and that was the conceptual basis for the ads. They said the strapline "the Cover Girl - Uncovered" was clearly a journalistic metaphor and not a literal ambition because Channel 5 was going to "uncover" her true story behind the glamorous image.
Mediaco Outdoor, the owners of one poster site that displayed the ad, stated that the site was not included in the Outdoor Media Centre (OMC) list of sites inside the 100-m school-exclusion zone. They said that that was possible because the school was relatively new; the OMC had now been made aware of the school in question.
Forrest Group, the owners of another poster site that displayed the ad, stated that the ad was not purchased subject to a placement restriction and there was no operational school within 500 m of the site. They explained that they rarely, if ever, viewed the contents of the ad until they were received and posted.
1. Channel 5 considered the ad to be within the boundaries of the CAP Code and did not accept that nudity was depicted on the posters. They acknowledged that Tamara Ecclestone appeared not to be wearing clothes However, her torso and thighs were almost completely covered by open magazines. They did not believe she was presented in a sexualised manner because she was photographed looking straight to the camera and neither her pose nor her expression was sexual in nature. They did not consider her to be presented in a sexually suggestive, seductive or sensual manner and the ad contained neither nudity nor sexual content or context.
2. Channel 5 stated the ad was not aimed at children. However, given the lack of nudity and sexual content in the poster, they did not believe it would be inappropriate to be viewed by children. They believed there was nothing in the posters that could have reasonably be considered racy, sexual, graphic, explicit or harmful to children. They said they took care to prepare and execute the campaign and consulted directly with the owners of the sites on which the ad was to be placed, who felt that it was acceptable.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA noted there was no explicit nudity in the image and that it did not draw undue attention to body parts in a sexual way. We considered that the nature of the TV programme being advertised meant that viewers of the ad were less likely to regard the ad as gratuitous and objectifying women. We considered that the woman was shown in a naturalistic pose and there was nothing in her body language or facial expression which was likely to be considered sexually suggestive. We also considered that, although the woman appeared to not be wearing any clothes, the ad contained no nudity or indecent exposure because she was covered by magazines. We acknowledged that some might find the content of the ad distasteful, but concluded that the ad was not irresponsibly placed and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to the public in general or to cause harm to children.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) 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) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.