A poster for Great Grass MCR Ltd, a supplier of artificial grass products, seen on 5 November 2015, showed a close-up image of a woman in a bra alongside a photograph of an artificial lawn. Large text across both images stated "REAL OR FAKE?".
A complainant challenged whether the image of a woman's breasts and the challenge to consider whether they were real or fake was offensive.
Great Grass MCR Ltd said the ad contained their usual slogan and was put together, they believed, tastefully and with humour, taking into account the need for the ad to have impact but not cause offence. They said the ad had not been placed near a school or church or in a residential area. They believed 8,000 vehicles per day used the junction where the ad was sited, resulting in approximately one million views.
Vision Advertising, the site owner, made similar comments to Great Grass. They added that the poster had been placed on one site only and had been there for over three months. They believed it was noteworthy that the ASA had received only one complaint.
The ASA considered that the close up image of a woman in a bra bore no relevance to the product being advertised, and that a link between real and fake breasts, and real and fake grass, was not one that consumers would normally make. Although the image was not sexually explicit, we considered that the use of it alongside an image of an area of grass, where consumers were asked the question "REAL OR FAKE?", had the effect of demeaning and objectifying women by using their physical features to draw attention to the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some consumers.
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 Great Grass MCR Ltd to ensure that future ads did not portray women in a manner that objectified them and which was likely to cause widespread or serious offence.