An ad for mortgage broker Habito, seen in Grazia magazine in November 2019, featured text which stated “Mortgage Kama Sutra. 1 in 10 couples say that getting a mortgage made their sex lives hell. Habito finds you the best deal so you can focus on the fun stuff”. The ad featured images suggestive of sexual positions and included text alongside each one, such as “Downpayment Doggy”, “The Standing Variable Rate”, “Prime 69” and “The Base-rate Scissor”.
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible due to its sexual nature.
Hey Habito Ltd said the ad was designed as a fun take on mortgages for an adult-only audience. They said the idea was borne out of a YouGov Panel of 2,000 adults which revealed the negative impact that getting a mortgage can have on the libido of British people. The images featured muted colours, minimal detail and negative space, carrying double meanings which they felt were not immediately apparent at first glance and therefore added subtlety to the content. Hey Habito said the images were not explicit in nature and were carefully and purposefully designed to be gender, race, age and sexual orientation and disability-neutral. They said no offensive or curse words of a sexual nature were used and that they carefully selected the media in which the ad appeared. Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (publishers of Grazia) said they thought the ad was suitable for their magazine, which had an average readership age of 38.
The ASA noted that the ad appeared in a lifestyle magazine targeted at an adult audience and that it sought to draw attention to Habito’s mortgage services in a novel way by informing readers that the libido of one in ten couples was affected by the mortgage process. While we acknowledged that some would find the artistic illustrations of sexual positions and accompanying descriptions distasteful, they were not explicit and we considered that most readers were likely to view the ad as a humorous play on the results of the survey. Consequently, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to those who saw it and was not irresponsible.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.