Ad description

A leaflet for Domino’s Pizza received during September 2021 featured an image of a pizza and stated, “AN EVEN TASTIER STUFFED CRUST? STFU!”.

Issue

The complainants, who understood “STFU” was an acronym for an expletive, challenged whether the ad was offensive and inappropriate to be distributed via letterboxes where it could be seen by children.

Response

Domino's Pizza UK & Ireland Ltd t/a Domino’s said the ad marked the tenth anniversary of their stuffed crust pizza and they wanted to convey a message about their new stuffed crust that would stand out, drive interest and engage with their audience. They said their customers responded well to their playful tone and as a brand that they were known for being very light-hearted and fun, which is why they used that approach in the ad campaign.

Domino’s said they were not alone in taking such an approach to marketing and there were other brands that used humour in the form of puns, double-entendres, and other wordplay to grab attention and reflect the everyday language used by consumers. Because of that, they felt it was alright to use the letters “STUFF” to produce the “STFU” slogan. However, they said they misjudged how the use of the abbreviation would be viewed by some who found the ad offensive, rather than a humorous example of wordplay.

Domino’s said they believed that by using the acronym “STFU”, rather than spelling out any offensive words, in full or partially, the messaging would not cause harm or offence to those reading it or be understood by children. They said the STFU acronym had not been used in any other media.

Domino’s said a number of menus with “STFU” on them were already in the process of being delivered, but they had stopped any further production of marketing material involving the STFU branding and would not run this campaign, or anything similar, in future. They also said they would provide their staff with further training to avoid this situation reoccurring in the future and apologised for the misstep in their marketing on this occasion.

Assessment

Not upheld

The ASA acknowledged that “STFU” was a rearrangement of the letters of the word “stuff”, and was intended as a pun or wordplay in reference to Domino’s stuffed crust pizza. However, “STFU” was an acronym for a well-known expression, “shut the fuck up” and we considered that some people would be familiar with it.

The ad had been posted through letter boxes and was therefore likely to be seen by people of all ages. However, we considered it both unlikely that young children would understand the reference, and that while older children might, they would likely be those who were already aware of what the acronym stood for.

While the “STFU” expression was suggestive of the use of an expletive, the ad itself included the acronym and did not expressly include any explicit language.

We therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Responsible advertising) and  4.1 4.1 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 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.

Action

No further action necessary.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.1    


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