A circular for Harlequin Fast Food, received on 17 June 2016, featured two images of a woman, who was wearing only underwear, a jacket and trainers, eating pizza.
Two complainants objected that the ad was offensive because it was sexist and objectified women.
Harlequin Fast Food stated that they had distributed thousands of leaflets without receiving any complaints. They stated that they felt the general consensus was that the images did not seem to cause any offence to males or females. They said they intended to amend the images after they had used up their remaining batch of leaflets, which were to be placed in a local newspaper.
The ASA considered that the images used in the ad bore no relevance to the fast food takeaway service advertised. We noted that in the first image, the model was depicted in a casual manner, where sitting cross-legged wearing a jacket, with her underwear only partially visible while drinking and holding a pizza. We did not consider this image to be particularly sexual or suggestive.
We noted that the second image featured on the back of the leaflet was more revealing than the first image, as the model's bra and cleavage was clearly visible. The model was depicted sitting on the edge of the sofa, with her mouth open and her hand placed between her legs. We considered her pose to be sexually suggestive rather than casual and we understood that recipients of the leaflet were likely to interpret the model’s expression and pose as being sexual in nature. We considered that showing the model in her underwear while eating pizza for no other reason than to promote the takeaway service, presented her as a sexual object.
We concluded that, by using a sexualised image of a woman that bore no relevance to the advertised product, the ad objectified women and was likely to cause serious 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 Harlequin Fast Food that their advertising must not cause offence by objectifying women.