An ad for a competition on the Daily Star's website www.dailystar.co.uk and in the newspaper:
a. The website ad, headed "Win a date with a Daily Star Page 3 babe! It's a cold miserable winter out there - but as ever your fun-loving Daily Star knows just how to brighten up your lives". The ad featured three photographs, including one photograph showing three women from the waist up, wearing bras and holding champagne flutes, and another photograph showing three women wearing burlesque-style knickers standing close together with their hands on each others' shoulders and waists, their breasts partially covered by their arms. The photographs were captioned "WIN: Enter the competition to have a chance of spending a day with a page 3 babe!", "DATE: The girls are desperate to meet you!" and "IRRESISTABLE: Who could turn down the chance to meet one of our babes?!".
Further text stated "We're all skint, shivering and face the prospect of politicians droning on for months ahead of this year's General Election, so we decided it was time to cheer up Britain. And what better way than with the help of our fantastic Page 3 girls? While some newspapers are becoming even duller than usual, we're proud to fly the flag as the official home of Page 3 babes. Daily Star models like these three lovelies are the best, brightest and bubbliest girls around, combining brains, beauty and winning personalities. And now we're offering you a chance to meet them and see for yourself what smart and sassy women they are. We'll fix it for two of our top Page 3 girls to visit your workplace on a date of your choice so you can get to know them - and find out just why we are so proud to publish their pictures every day. Just think how chuffed your workmates will be to learn you have bagged them this prize, and how jealous your other friends will be! To be in with a great chance of winning, simply send in a picture of yourself … and tell us in 50 words or less why you and your friends would love to meet our Page 3 girls. The best answer will win the sizzling prize!".
b. The newspaper ad featured, on the front page, an image of two women in bikinis under the heading "WIN a chance to meet our fab Page 3 girls". On page 3, underneath an image of three women wearing only bikini bottoms, the same text as in ad (a) was headed "SPEND A DAY WITH A P3 BABE".
The ASA received 31 complaints, including one from the campaign group Object. Thirty complaints were from members of the public, many of whom had become aware of the promotion through social media.
The complainants, who believed that to offer a date with a 'page-3 girl' as a prize was sexist and objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive and socially irresponsible.
Express Newspapers Ltd t/a the Daily Star said their female editor prided herself on their 'Star Babes' being portrayed as three-dimensional women. They provided copies of four articles published in the paper, on pages other than page 3, in 2010 and 2011 to illustrate their point. One article gave brief details of the careers of models who were the wives or girlfriends of England footballers and provided advice on how to become a 'Star Babe', two were photo-diary style features about page 3 shoots in Portugal, and one featured five women posing in the same see-through dress and giving their opinions of it. The Daily Star said the paper presented the models as celebrities and attempted to provide a picture of their personalities and lives; they were promoted as individuals.
The Daily Star said their photographer was a woman who was interested in creating stars of the models. They said the more famous models were viewed as celebrities and some women aspired to be like them, seeing modelling as a launch pad to being famous and providing a career. They had run a competition in March 2014 in which their female readers could apply to be a model.
The Daily Star said both ads featured models who had appeared regularly in the paper, were familiar faces to their readers, and were considered to be celebrities by many readers. They commented that the prize, a visit from two 'Star Babes' at the winners' workplace, did not promise anything other than a personal appearance, and that that was no different to other competitions to "win a date" with or meet female or male celebrities or to other celebrity appearances. They said the phrase "Win A Date" in ad (a) was commonly used and meant a social meeting between individuals, and did not carry any connotation of sexual activity. They said the ads' reference to winner's workmates being "chuffed" and their friends being jealous was puffery and reflected wording that would be used if the prize was meeting a pop star or actor at someone's workplace.
The Daily Star said that the readership of the newspaper was 66% men with an average age of 48 years and of their website users, 78% were male and 71% under the age of 45. They said the picture of the three topless women in ad (b) appeared on page 3, which every reader knew was the home of the 'Star Babes', although the website did not tend to feature 'Star Babes'. The Daily Star considered that in that context, and in the context of women who had chosen to model in the paper, the competition was not irresponsible or offensive. Whilst some people might find the competition distasteful or offensive, they believed readers of their paper and users of their website would not.
The ASA noted the demographic information about the Daily Star's readership and website users, and that the image of three topless women in ad (b) appeared on page 3 of the paper, where similar images routinely appeared. We noted the Daily Star's view that the models were promoted as individuals and were seen as celebrities by some of their readers. We acknowledged that it was not unusual for competition prizes to involve meeting, or having a 'date', with a celebrity.
We noted the ads referred to the 'Star Babes' as a "sizzling prize", and suggested that their visit to the winner's workplace would bring the approval of their colleagues for "bagging them this prize" and would invoke jealousy in their friends. In the context of a competition in which the prize involved a visit from 'page 3' glamour models, a job which was based on a woman's attractiveness and in which women posed nude or semi-nude and which therefore inherently involved the objectification of their bodies, we considered the implication was that the prize would be enjoyed or envied on the basis of the women's attractiveness rather than because of their personality or other non-physical qualities. We also noted that the competition prize was described as involving a visit from "one of our babes!" and "two of our top Page 3 girls" rather than from specific individuals. We considered the implication was therefore that it did not matter which individual models would be visiting the winner and that the women were presented as interchangeable. In that context, whilst we noted the ads were targeted at Daily Star readers and website users, many of whom would likely have no objection to 'page 3' itself, we considered it likely that some would nonetheless find the notion of offering women as a prize to be sexist, offensive and socially irresponsible.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
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) and 8.7 8.7 No promotion or promotional item should cause serious or widespread offence to consumers. (Sales promotions).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told the Daily Star to ensure that their future advertising contained nothing that was socially irresponsible or likely to cause serious or widespread offence.