Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A paid-for post shown on Erics Angling Centre’s Facebook page and seen on 30 July 2017 featured an image of a woman with her mouth open and wiping the bottom of her lip with a napkin and featured the text, “… Prices that are easy to swallow”.
1. The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible because it depicted a model that looked underage in a sexualised manner.
2. The complainant also challenged whether the ad was irresponsibly shown in an untargeted medium where children could see it.
Erics Angling Centre Ltd did not respond to our enquiries.
Facebook stated that they investigated the matter in response to our enquiries and discovered that the ad had been removed. However, they stated that if the ad was live on their platform, it would have violated their advertising policies relating to sexual content.
The ASA was concerned by Erics Angling Centre’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We understood that Erics Angling Centre was an online fishing tackle shop and considered that it would be unacceptable for their ads to be sexual in nature, as there was no relevance for their service to be marketed in such a manner. Therefore, we considered that such imagery in their advertising would be regarded by consumers as being gratuitous.
We noted that the model had a very youthful appearance, which we considered made her look under the age of 16 years.
The model was shown wiping the bottom of her lip with a napkin with her mouth open and along with the text “Prices that are easy to swallow”, we considered would be understood to be a sexual innuendo, suggesting that she had just participated in an act of sexual activity.
Because of that, we considered that the ad was offensive and irresponsible because it depicted a model that looked underage in a sexualised manner.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) 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).
We noted that the post appeared as a sponsored ad on Facebook and given that Erics Angling Centre did not respond to our enquiries, we did not know how it had been targeted on the platform, which we understood had registered users as young as 13 years of age.
Therefore, notwithstanding our view that the ad depicted a model that looked underage in a sexualised manner, we considered that there was a possibility that the ad may have been irresponsibly shown in an untargeted medium where children could see it.
On that point the ad 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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Erics Angling Centre Ltd that their advertising must not depict models that looked underage in a sexualised manner. Furthermore, they must ensure that their future advertising was appropriately targeted and not gratuitously sexual in nature.