A tweet on the GiffGaff company Twitter feed, which could be accessed by an embedded feed on their own website, stated "The situations in our new videos are, well, awkward. #NSFW [LINK] #alltheboss". Beneath this, a video was embedded in a player and a still, showing a topless man wearing earphones and looking into a room, was displayed. Underneath the video player text stated "Out for a run - At home with your parents you're not the boss ... Dean returns hot and sweaty from a run and gets an eye full. At home with your parents you're not the boss" and there was a link to where the video was hosted on an external site.
In the first two seconds of the video on-screen text in the bottom-left corner stated "WARNING: You cannot unsee this". The video showed the interior of a house and a man entering wearing earphones and dressed in a damp T-shirt, which he removed. He pushed open a door, revealing a couple having sex in a laundry room. The video cut back to the man's reaction, and then again to the couple, before showing the man walking away looking dazed. The video then cut to a blank screen, on which text stated "At home with your parents you're not the boss ... At giffgaff we're all the boss". During the video panting sounds could be heard, which continued over the blank screen section.
The complainant, who considered that the content was sexually graphic, objected that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Giffgaff Ltd stated that it was not their intention to cause offence. They said the ad was intended to show in a humorous way that, although some of their customers may not feel like the boss while living at home with their parents, with the Giffgaff network they could be the boss because they are able to have a say in how it's run. They stated that the style of the ad was humorous and playful, and that there was no nudity. They also stated that there was a warning at the start of the video that stated "Warning: You cannot unsee this," which served to alert viewers to the fact that it may not be to their taste. Giffgaff said that, according to YouTube statistics, the ad had been viewed 37,530 times at the point of providing their response and that the receipt of only one complaint indicated that the offence caused was not widespread or serious.
Twitter did not provide a comment on the content of the ad, but stated that it was an ordinary tweet posted by the advertiser rather than a paid-for tweet promoted by the site.
The ASA noted that the ad did not feature nudity. However, we considered that the characters were clearly having sex, that viewers would be likely to understand this to be the case, and that despite the lack of nudity the situation depicted was of a strongly sexual nature that would be likely to cause offence in an untargeted medium. Although we acknowledged Giffgaff's assertion that the ad was intended to be playful and humorous, we considered that a light-hearted tone was insufficient to mitigate the potential for offence due to the sexual nature of the content. We noted that the ad was available to view to all visitors to Giffgaff's Twitter feed, the general content of which appeared to be of a mild nature that would have general appeal to consumers, and would play whether or not they were signed in to Twitter or the site hosting the video itself. We therefore considered that the ad was untargeted. We acknowledged that a warning message was displayed at the beginning of the video, but noted that it was initially obscured by the video's control panel, was discreetly positioned and was only present briefly. We also considered that the phrase "WARNING: You cannot unsee this" was unlikely to indicate to viewers the nature of the scene that was to follow and, therefore, was inadequate to alert viewers to the content of the video. Moreover, we considered that the untargeted nature of the medium meant that a disclaimer was not sufficient to prevent the ad from being seen by viewers who would be offended by the content. Because the video featured strongly sexual content in an untargeted medium we concluded that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Giffgaff Ltd to ensure that future ads in untargeted media did not contain strongly sexual content.