An email from Honey Birdette, an online adult retailer, received on 16 April 2017, included text which stated "RES-ERECTION", "Easter Treats" and "Sinful Sunday". This text appeared next to the advertised product, namely a sex toy.
The complainant challenged whether using a religious holiday to advertise a sex toy was offensive.
Honey Birdette (UK) Ltd said that it was not their intention to offend and acknowledged that the email may have caused offence. They explained that they had since pulled the ad and had implemented a stringent approval process to ensure their advertising was not likely to cause offence in future.
The ASA considered that the imagery of the ad together with the double entendre "RES-ERECTION" and word play all strongly linked sex with the religious holiday of Easter. The CAP Code stated that particular care must be taken by advertisers to avoid causing offence on the grounds of various characteristics, including religion. We understood that Easter was a particularly sacred time of worship for Christians, and noted the ad played particularly on the religious provenance of the holiday by referencing "RES-ERECTION" and "Sinful Sunday". We considered the use of the religious holiday of Easter to advertise a sex toy was likely to cause serious offence and concluded that it was therefore in breach of the Code.
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 Honey Birdette (UK) Ltd to ensure future ads did not cause serious or widespread offence, and to take particular care to avoid causing offence on the grounds of religion.