A Video on Demand (VOD) ad for Femfresh bikini line shaving products, seen on ITV Player and 4oD in March and April 2017, featured several women, who were wearing briefs and swimwear, dancing. It included multiple close-up shots of the women’s crotches.
Seventeen complainants, who believed that the ad objectified women and portrayed them in an overly sexualised way, objected that it was offensive and socially irresponsible.
Church & Dwight UK Ltd said that the ad promoted a new line designed for shaving the bikini area. It was aimed at a target audience of 18- to 34-year-old women who were engaged with current fashion and music trends and interested in beauty and fitness. The ad was in a gym setting, and the dancers wore swimwear and gym clothes selected to reflect what was available on the high street. The dance sequence was choreographed by a female choreographer and featured moves regularly performed during dance warm-ups, yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise. Close ups were used to illustrate that the product could give consumers a smooth bikini line. They had also been advised by Clearcast that the ad could be run on VOD. Church & Dwight did not believe that the ad was offensive or socially irresponsible.
ITV said that they had not received any complaints about the ad directly. They said that the ad had been placed next to programmes that were unlikely to have particular appeal to children, in line with Clearcast advice. They agreed with the comments submitted by Church & Dwight that the ad did not objectify women.
Channel 4 said that the ad had been approved for VOD by Clearcast and they had not received any direct complaints. They said they had ensured that the ad was not served with inappropriate programming. They agreed with the comments submitted by Church & Dwight that the ad did not objectify women.
The ASA noted that Church & Dwight had received advice from Clearcast, which set out Clearcast’s view that the ad was “OK for VOD”. However, we noted that the advertiser had primary responsibility for ensuring that VOD ads complied with the CAP Code.
The ad promoted products for shaving the bikini line, and given their intended use, it was relevant for the ad to focus on that area of the body and show women wearing swimwear and fitness wear that exposed it. We also noted that many of the dance moves used in the routine reflected those that might be seen in some exercise classes. However, overall we considered that the dance sequence was highly sexualised, in the style of a music video, and featured many thrusting dance moves. The ad focused to a large extent on the women’s crotches, with relatively few shots of their faces, and some of them wore high-cut swimsuits that were more exposing than many swimsuits. Even taking into account the nature of the product, we considered that it had been presented in an overly-sexualised way that objectified women. We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Church & Dwight Ltd not to use advertising that objectified women and which was likely to cause serious or widespread offence to promote their products.