Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
An in-app ad and two paid-for ads on Facebook for the e-commerce platform Wish, seen on various dates in November 2017 and February 2018:
a. The in-app ad featured two products. One was a black cat suit that was shown being worn by a woman who, in one image, was pulling down a zip that exposed the top of her bottom. In the second image, the woman was on all fours with the zip open, exposing more of her bottom. The second product was a toddler’s carrying seat, worn around the parent's waist with a belt. The product was shown with a baby perched on the seat and being worn by a woman. The baby wore a pair of shorts with a split exposing the baby’s bottom.
b. The first Facebook ad contained the same image of the baby in ad (a) to advertise the same product. Next to it was imagery promoting another product, an elastic support which was purported to make the penis appear larger and to be worn underneath underwear. The ad contained “before” and “after” photos that apparently showed the results of using the product by featuring a picture of a man wearing white underwear and drawings that indicated how the product worked.
c. The second Facebook ad again featured the toddler carrying seat with the same image of the baby, but it was not presented alongside products of a sexual nature.
1. One complainant challenged whether ad (a) was offensive and irresponsible because it presented sexualised imagery alongside an image of a baby with its bottom exposed.
2. Another complainant challenged whether ad (b) was offensive and irresponsible for the same reason.
3. A third complainant challenged whether ad (c) was offensive and irresponsible because it contained the same image of the baby as ads (a) and (b).
ContextLogic Inc t/a Wish did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
Shpock, who were responsible for the placement of the in-app ad, said ad (a) violated their policy. They confirmed that they had blocked Wish from advertising through their platform again.
Facebook said ads (b) and (c) were no longer available on their site as they violated their advertising policies.
The ASA was concerned by Wish's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, and ruled that they had breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
1, 2. & 3. Upheld
The image of the baby's bottom being exposed through ripped shorts – common in all three ads – appeared to draw attention to it for no reason that was relevant to the product and in a way that we considered was likely to be seen as irresponsible and offensive by many readers. We also understood that the ad was untargeted.
In relation to ad (a), we considered that to show the shot of the baby's bottom alongside the images of the woman pulling down the zip of the catsuit to expose the top of her bottom and of her on all fours while exposing her bottom through the slit was likely to be seen as particularly irresponsible and offensive.
In relation to ad (b), we considered that to show the shot of the baby's bottom adjacent to the imagery promoting the product which was claimed to have the effect of making the penis appear larger, along with the “before” and “after” photos and the drawings that indicated how the product worked, was likely to be seen as particularly irresponsible and offensive.
Ads (a), (b) and (c) 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 ads must not appear again in the forms complained of. We told Wish not to feature children in ways that were likely to be seen as irresponsible or offensive.