Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A TV ad for Green Flag breakdown cover, seen in June and July 2021, included scenes of people involved in various car breakdown scenarios. A voiceover stated, “When you break down, your first words probably aren’t Green Flag, but maybe they should be your second, because if your flipping car fudging goes kaput we'll rescue you anywhere in the country, and you can track our truck all the chuffing way with our app, we'll even halve your AA or RAC renewal quote. So whatever your first words let's make your last ones thank truck I went with Green Flag”. The ad was cleared by Clearcast without a scheduling restriction.
The ASA received 46 complaints from members of the public:
1. forty-six complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive as it alluded to using expletives; and
2. sixteen complainants challenged whether the ad was scheduled inappropriately, as it was broadcast throughout the day when children could be watching.
1. & 2. Green Flag Ltd said that the intention of the ad was to parody recognised frustrations from breaking down, which could sometimes result in the use of ’colourful’ language, and that the use of their services could help alleviate those frustrations.
They believed the introductory line “When you break down, your first words probably aren’t Green Flag” to be an ambiguous statement that could point to many different words. The ad did not use any explicit language and the words “flipping”, “fudging”, “chuffing” and “truck” were all clearly enunciated to ensure they sounded clear and distinct from any expletive. They stated that the tone was intended to be humorous and playful and that the words used were those in common usage and could be used as inoffensive, socially acceptable alternatives to expletives.
Green Flag said that when creating the ad they had referred to previous ASA decisions and CAP guidance on the use of offensive language. They had conducted consumer research on the ad and found that it was generally well received. They said that only 3% of 165 people surveyed had an issue with the use of the words. As such they did not believe that the ad would cause either serious or widespread offence.
Clearcast felt that replacing expletives with non-offensive euphemistic words such as ‘flip’ ‘fudging’, ‘chuffing’ and ‘truck’ was an acceptable approach and in line with previous ASA decisions on similar ads. Clearcast had previously accepted words such as ‘freak’ and ‘funk’ as substitutes for an expletive without timing restrictions. They also highlighted that a previous Green Flag campaign which used the phrase “Who the fudge are Green Flag?” had not attracted any complaints. They accepted that euphemistic language might be understood by adults as stand-ins for offensive words. However, they believed that they were words which parents would prefer their children to use instead of the expletives they replaced. They felt the ad was therefore unlikely to cause social or moral harm, or widespread or serious offence.
1. Not upheld
The ad used the words “flipping”, “fudging”, “chuffing” and “truck” in contexts where it appeared the person depicted in the scenarios accompanying the voiceover might swear. The ASA considered many viewers would understand most of those words were often used as alternatives to the words ‘fucking’. However, no actual expletive was used, and we considered that the use of the word “truck” was also likely to be seen as being relevant to the product advertised, and therefore not out of context or gratuitous. In addition, we considered that the words used throughout the ad were clearly identifiable and had been enunciated so as not to be obscured. As such it was unlikely to be mistaken, or confused, for the expletive by listeners. We recognised that some listeners might find the wordplay distasteful but we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On this point we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.
Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.
Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach
2. Not upheld
We considered that younger children were unlikely to understand the wordplay and as such, they were also unlikely to recognise that the words were obscuring an expletive. We recognised that some older children might be able to make that connection; however, because the expletive was not used, we considered that they were unlikely to be harmed by the ad.
We understood that no scheduling restriction or advice had been applied to the ad at the time it was cleared by Clearcast, which we considered was appropriate for its content. We concluded the ad had been scheduled appropriately.
On this point we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social Responsibility), 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. and 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Scheduling), but did not find it in breach
No further action required.