Two online display ads, for the clothing retailer Diesel, seen in March 2021:
a. The first ad, seen on the websites for the Independent newspaper and Sky News included a slide show of images of couples kissing, some open-mouthed and on beds, alongside the caption “DIESEL FOR SUCCESSFUL LIVING”.
b. The second ad, appearing on the website for Sky News, included a video that automatically played. The video featured voiceovers from several people who described being apart from their romantic partner before getting back together. The video included shots of couples kissing and beginning to undress in sexual positions, including partners straddling each other in bed.
Three complainants challenged whether the ads were irresponsible, because they included overtly sexual imagery in an untargeted medium where they could be seen by children.
Diesel (London) Ltd responded that they did not consider that the Sky News or Independent newspaper websites were likely to be of a particular appeal to children, or that they would be likely to be seen by children.
Diesel also said that the images were chosen to present a celebration of love in all forms after a prolonged period of separation, and that they depicted authentic, real-world human intimacy rather than “sexual” imagery. The ads captured those “first again” moments such as the first touch and first kiss after time apart, and were not intended to depict explicit sexual behaviour, but were intended to depict heartfelt emotion rather than sexual acts. They considered that the use of the nudity was not gratuitous.
Diesel said they had targeted the ads to adults by selecting interest-based targeting options relating to preferences and types of products, but they had not used any age-targeting options.
The images and video in both ads (a) and (b) included open-mouthed kissing, couples on beds together and couples in intimate positions. The ASA considered that, whilst not sexually explicit, the images were sexually suggestive.
Because the images were sexually suggestive we considered that Diesal should have taken all reasonable steps to exclude children from the target audience. We therefore considered what steps Diesel had taken to ensure that the ads were targeted away from children.
We acknowledged that neither the Independent nor Sky News websites were of particular appeal to children, and that the websites were more likely to be viewed by adults. However, we considered that there were likely to be some children in the audience of both websites and that Diesel should therefore have used age and interest-based targeting tools to ensure that the ads were targeted to adults and away from children. We understood that Diesel had used some interest-based targeting options, but it was not clear that those choices would have been such that the ads would have been targeted towards adults and away from children. Furthermore, Diesel had confirmed that they did not use any age-targeting tools to target the ads away from children.
Because the ads included sexually suggestive imagery and Diesel had not taken all reasonable steps to ensure that they were not served to children, we concluded that the ads were irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility).
We told Diesel (London) Ltd to ensure that, if their ads contained sexually suggestive imagery, they took all reasonable steps to ensure that they were not seen by children.