An e-mail, received in October 2012, stated "Now then, now then" in the subject line. The body of the e-mail stated "TBM How's about that then" in large print above a black and white image of Jimmy Savile, wearing underwear and smoking a cigar, with a superimposed copy of a TBM magazine in his hand. Text beneath the image stated "Christmas is coming and what better way of relaxing than to pull up a comfy velour settee, light up a Cuban cigar and finger through a copy of your favourite magazine - delivered direct to your door. TBM ... the publication that doesn't take itself too seriously. 'As it 'appens!'".
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible, in view of recent media coverage surrounding allegations of sexual abuse made against Jimmy Savile.
Extreme Publishing Ltd, trading as TBM Magazine (TBM), stressed that they had not intended to offend or upset anyone by sending the e-mail. They explained that the e-mail had been sent to almost 4,000 people who, as current or past subscribers to, or advertisers for, their magazine, had signed up to receive their eNewsletter. They noted that the ASA had received two complaints about the e-mail and said that represented a very small proportion of those who had received it.
TBM stated that the image of Jimmy Savile, which they said showed him wearing running shorts and not underwear, was not distasteful in and of itself, because pictures of him were prevalent in the media at the time. They pointed out that riders of trailbikes had to be at least 17 years old, and said in fact most of their magazine readers were much older and tended to be quite broad-minded. They also said TBM was well known to the motorcycle industry and its readers for having a humorous, irreverent and direct journalistic style, and that in designing the e-mail they had been satirising themselves. They provided a copy of an editorial column they had written on the subject of the e-mail for the next edition of their magazine. The column explained that their intention in sending the e-mail had been to imply, in an ironic fashion, that TBM was culturally naive and had not realised the negative connotations of publishing an image purporting to show Jimmy Savile endorsing their product.
TBM explained that an automatic link to the e-mail had been created on their Facebook page, but that within hours of its creation they had removed the link and apologised for any offence. They said they had received 34 comments in response to that apology, of which only one was overwhelmingly negative. During the course of the ASA investigation, they said they had also removed a link to the e-mail which had been posted on their Twitter account. They stated that they had no plans to publish the e-mail again.
TBM considered that neither the image nor the wording of the e-mail were distasteful, and reiterated that the text was obviously intended to be of a light-hearted nature. They said that was clear from the sentence "TBM ... the publication that doesn't take itself too seriously". They suggested that it would not be possible to avoid upsetting everybody at all times, and, although they stressed that they were sorry for any offence which had been caused, said they did not consider the ad was in breach of the Code.
The ASA understood that the e-mail was an eNewsletter designed to promote Trailbike & Enduro Magazine and had been sent to a mailing list of current and past subscribers as well as companies which advertised in the magazine. We acknowledged that TBM believed their demographic for the hard-copy magazine was a broad-minded adult audience. We also acknowledged TBM's statement that they had intended the e-mail to be humorous, and that they considered the joke to have been made at their own expense.
Although advertisers were entitled to refer to current news stories in their ads, we considered that particular care was needed in such cases, and especially when the stories involved allegations about the sexual abuse of children. We understood that the e-mail had been sent several days after the Metropolitan Police had launched a formal criminal investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, stating at that time that over 200 potential victims had been identified. We considered that the overall tone of the ad was light-hearted, and that that approach was likely to be seen as insensitive by its recipients when used in conjunction with references to Jimmy Savile, given the media climate at that time. We also considered that, particularly in view of the e-mail's subject line, the accompanying text and the large image of Jimmy Savile, who was seen reclining in an armchair wearing few clothes, it was likely to cause serious offence to some. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
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 welcomed TBM's assurance that the ad would not appear again. We told them to ensure they prepared their ads with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society, and to ensure they did not cause serious or widespread offence.