A TV ad, for a domain and web hosting company, opened in an office boardroom full of men, with the actress Pamela Anderson, who was wearing a buttoned suit jacket over an unbuttoned white shirt, chairing the meeting. She said, "To the next item on the agenda. Gentlemen, if we want this business to stay on top, we need to be at the forefront of the Internet." One of the men (Adam) was shown nodding his head.
Anderson's assistant (Vanessa, who was dressed similarly to Anderson) poured her a cup of coffee and asked if she wanted cream. When pouring the cream, Vanessa's cleavage became visible to Adam, who began to fantasise about Anderson and Vanessa dancing in bikinis while covered in cream. A close-up shot of Anderson was then shown, calling out for Adam in a suggestive manner. Adam snapped out of his fantasy when Anderson called his name in a stern tone. She asked him, "What are we going to do about our web address?" to which he responded hesitantly, "Crazy… Domains.co.uk?" Anderson said. "Very good, Adam" before the final scene showed Vanessa leaning beside Adam pouring a cup of coffee, revealing her cleavage again.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a timing restriction such that it should not be broadcast before 9pm.
Four viewers challenged whether the ad was offensive, because they considered it sexist and degrading to women.
Dreamscape Networks Ltd did not believe the ad was offensive or degraded women. They said the ad deliberately portrayed the lead female character, played by Pamela Anderson, as the head of the business and portrayed her and the other female character as being attractive, dynamic and confident business people. They said the lead male character "Adam", on the other hand, was portrayed as being nerdy and lacking in confidence. They believed this was anything but degrading to women.
They explained the ad intended to be comical and contained humorous content. The story line was a parody of office stereotypes and poked fun at a mundane business meeting. They said the role of sex and sexuality in the ad was part of the overall joke which drew attention to the advertised service and brand name. They said the scene in which Adam began daydreaming and imagined Pamela Anderson's character and the other female character in bikinis covered in cream was a very deliberately over-the-top simulation that occurred in Adam's imagination. They believed the dream sequence, although suggestive in nature, was not gratuitous or pornographic. They believed the sound-track, character reactions and theme for the sequence poked fun at the fantasy.
They said the portrayal of the female characters in the sequence was limited to Adam's imagination and the fantasy sequence showed he had not been concentrating on his work. Adam had to rely on his familiarity with the product to avoid being caught out when questioned by his boss and, thanks to the product, Adam was able to save himself from embarrassment in front of his boss and peers. The intervention of Crazy Domains as the answer to the business problem posed to Adam by his boss was intended to be juxtaposed to the fantasy sequence and therefore humorous and memorable.
They pointed out that neither of the female characters suffered any damage to their reputation or negative consequences as a result of the dream sequence. They said the only possible negative outcome was the insight into Adam's imagination which demonstrated his lack of attention or inability to focus on his work.
Dreamscape Networks did not believe the ad objectified women, as it was clear the exaggerated fantasy sequence was limited to Adam's imagination. They said it was his musings and easy distraction which were meant to be over-the-top and comical, especially in the context of a business meeting and because they were suddenly interrupted. They said it was a tongue-in-cheek approach to promoting their product. They believed the majority of viewers would find the ad fanciful and humorous.
Clearcast said they endorsed the response provided by Dreamscape Networks. They explained the ad was a foreign ad and they had not seen a preproduction script for it. They said when they viewed the ad, they felt that it required a post-9pm timing restriction. They said that although they recognised that it might be considered offensive to some viewers, they believed it would not cause general widespread offence. Their decision had been based partly on the fact that the ad featured Pamela Anderson, a celebrity who was known for flaunting her body. They said that although the fantasy scenario was fairly explicit, Ms Anderson's character was not portrayed as a victim; rather, she appeared a strong, confident woman who could stand up for herself.
The ASA understood that the ad was intended as a parody of a mundane business meeting and was intended to be humorous and light-hearted. Whilst we noted Dreamscape Networks' and Clearcast's comments about the female characters being portrayed as strong, confident business women, we considered that they were also portrayed sexually throughout the ad, not just during the fantasy sequence. We noted that even though they were wearing business attire, their shirts were buttoned down so that they were exposing their bras and cleavages. Furthermore, during the fantasy sequence, they were seen dancing and writhing around in cream whilst wearing bikinis. Although the fantasy scene, which we considered was sexually suggestive, was limited to Adam's imagination, we considered it gave the impression that he viewed his female colleagues as sexual objects to be lusted after. Because of that, we considered the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some viewers on the basis that it was sexist and degrading to women.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.