Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Four in-app ads for the e-commerce platform Wish:
a. The first ad, seen in the BBC Good Food Guide app on 13 April 2020, featured images including a naked mannequin wearing a cape, a woman shown from the neck down wearing a corset that partially exposed her breasts and revealed nipple tassels, and an image of a reclining woman from the waist down wearing fishnet stockings and underwear.
b. The second ad, seen in the Google News app on 22 April 2020, featured images including a woman wearing a jacket that partially exposed her cleavage and midriff, and a woman shown from the neck down wearing a corset that partially exposed her breasts and revealed nipple tassels.
c. The third ad, seen in the Google News app on 1 May 2020, featured the same images as ad (b), and an image of a prosthetic penis alongside the text "Dildo + Ass Sex Cup + Penis Sleeve ... 6cm Longer ... 4cm Bigger".
d. The fourth ad, seen in a Solitaire game on Google Play on 1 May 2020, featured the same images as ad (c), and an image of a reclining woman from the waist down wearing fishnet stockings and underwear.
The ASA received three complaints:
1. three complainants, who considered that the content of the ads was sexually graphic, objected that the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence; and
2. two complainants challenged whether ads (b), (c) and (d) had been responsibly targeted because they were likely to be seen by children.
1. & 2. Context Logic Inc t/a Wish.com said that their ads were comprised of content from listings provided by third-party sellers on the Wish marketplace. Wish.com used techniques to identify and remove potentially objectionable content, which included filtering based on keywords in listing titles and tags applied to the listing. Wish.com worked with an ad partner who used filtering and other measures to prevent Wish ads from appearing in inappropriate forums.
Regarding the ads complained of, the keyword filters and image analysis used by their ad partner was not sufficient in preventing the ads from being displayed in general audience forums. Wish.com halted UK campaigns with the ad partner in May 2020. They said that they were not currently advertising through the ad partner until they had more confidence in their ability to identify mature content and prevent it from being shown in general audience forums. Wish.com agreed that the ads may not have been appropriate for all forums, such as those where the audience were likely to be comprised of a large number of minors, and they were taking action to address the issue. However, they did not agree that the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
With regards to ad (a), Immediate Media, the creators of the BBC Good Food app, said that the ad was delivered as a result of the programmatic advertising that was in place. This allowed advertisers to retarget users based on their visiting history and had been used by Wish.com. They set out details of the preventative measures and action taken to prevent offensive ads appearing on their websites and apps, which included blocking certain product categories and monitoring images. They did not consider the ad to be suitable to be presented to users of BBC Good Food.
All four ads depicted a range of garments, including nipple tassels shown on exposed breasts and a cape displayed on a nude mannequin, and ads (c) and (d) depicted a sex toy. These were all available on the Wish.com website. While the images were relevant to the products sold, the ASA considered they were overtly sexual and contained explicit nudity.
We considered that consumers using apps for recipes, the news and playing solitaire would not expect to see sexually explicit content. We therefore concluded that in those contexts the ads were likely to cause both serious and widespread offence.
On this point ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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: age; disability;
gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and
maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance
will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing
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).
As referenced above, we considered that the ads were overtly sexual and contained explicit nudity. We considered they therefore were not suitable to be seen by children. Ads (b) and (c) were seen in the Google News app and ad (d) was seen in a Solitaire game. We considered that, given the content of the apps, they were likely to have a broad appeal to all ages including children, and therefore any ads that appeared within the apps should have been suitable for children.
While Wish.com and their ad partner had used measures such as keyword filters and image analysis to try to target them to a suitable audience, it had not prevented the ads being shown in mediums where children were likely to be part of the audience. Because the ads contained explicit sexual images and had been placed in apps that were likely to be used by children, we concluded that the ads had been placed irresponsibly and breached the Code.
On this point ads (b), (c) and (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Context Logic Inc t/a Wish.com to ensure that their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence and to ensure their ads were appropriately targeted.