Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one of which was Upheld and one Not upheld.
A TV ad for Hydrow, seen on 21 December 2021, began with a woman on a rowing machine. The ad included a voice-over which said, “There’s this feeling we chase.” The woman was shown smiling and then appeared, lying on grass. The voice-over continued, “Like someone upped the brightness on the entire world.” The woman was then standing upright and running down a street. The voice-over said, “Like your body is supercharged but your mind is super calm.” The woman was shown skidding to a stop on the street. She then appeared floating in the air with her legs crossed and her eyes closed. The woman then appeared standing by a zebra crossing while cars went by. The voice-over said, “It feels like 20/20 vision for your whole being.” The woman’s hands started to glow and she ran through the traffic at high speed while cars around her appeared to be moving in slow motion. The voice-over said, “And we chase this feeling, until we feel it one more time.” The woman was shown back on the rowing machine. The voice-over and on-screen text said, “Feel the Hydrow high.” Further onscreen text said “available now at hydrow.com”.
The ASA received four complaints:
1. The complainants, who believed that the ad encouraged dangerous behaviour crossing a road, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
2. Two of the complainants also challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it encouraged behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate.
1. Hydrow Ltd said that the ad was highly fantastical. The beginning and end scenes showed the woman working out with her Hydrow machine but the street scenes in the middle of the ad were clearly in the woman’s mind. They said that was demonstrated eight seconds into the ad when the woman was shown springing up from a horizontal to vertical position in a way that was physically impossible. She was also shown floating in the air in a yoga pose, and her hands glowed prior to the road crossing scene, while crossing the road she glowed iridescently and completed the final step of the crossing at lightning speed. They said all those examples demonstrated that viewers would interpret the ad as fantastical and not as a real-life portrayal of crossing a road.
Hydrow said that while the sequence as a whole was fantastical, the woman was shown crossing at a zebra crossing; a safe and appropriate place. The woman waited three to four seconds at the crossing and did not simply run over the road. They said, while crossing, the woman was shown to be attentive and hyper-aware of her surroundings, and that the cars were shown slowing down when coming to the crossing and fulfilled their legal obligations in the UK. The woman when crossing did so in slow motion and at no point did any of the cars hit her, swerve or come close to her. They believed the sequence was therefore not presented as risk-taking and did not glamourise dangerous behaviour.
2. Hydrow explained the ad contained nothing that appealed to children. They said Hydrow’s products and the ad’s topics of mindfulness and exercise held no interest to children, and that the actress was an adult woman who was unlikely to appeal to children or be an individual that children would have wanted to emulate. Hydrow said that the ad was aimed at 25-54-year olds rather than those under 25.
Hydrow stated that the ad featured no children, whom young children would be likely to emulate. In addition, young children would always be supervised while crossing roads. They said older children, however, would have been able to distinguish the fictional elements within the ad and the ad would not have caused them to ignore their usual road safety knowledge.
Hydrow said that while they did not think the ad breached the Code, they were willing, in conjunction with Clearcast, to discuss applying an ‘ex-kids’ restriction to the ad, to ensure it would not be broadcast in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.
Clearcast said that they were aware that Hydrow had proposed including an ex-kids restriction on the ad.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad began with a realistic scene of a woman in her home using a Hydrow machine and then lying on the floor exhausted. The camera panned into her face, she smiled and it cut to her falling from a height to land in the grass, in a complete change of clothes. The indication was that the viewer was transported into the mind of the woman. That was supported by further scenes of her floating on air in a yoga pose, standing by a crossing with glowing hands, running in slow motion between cars and staring at a glowing light in the sky, which were all experiences far removed from everyday life. In the final scene she was shown opening her eyes and appeared back in the everyday setting of her home on the Hydrow machine, indicating that she had stopped imagining and was back in the real world.
We noted that the scene at the zebra crossing showed the woman running without warning across the road while the traffic was still moving, and we regarded that as dangerous behaviour. However, we considered that the clear delineation of the realistic scenes in the home with the street events would be understood by adults to mean that the street scenes were in the imagination of the woman, and therefore fantastical and not a reflection of everyday life. Specifically, the superhuman way the woman ran through traffic, depicted in slow motion but shown to represent extreme speed, with her hands glowing beforehand and her glowing feet while running, would be understood by adults to be impossible in normal life and clearly a fictional scenario in her mind. For those reasons, we considered the ad would not cause adults to ignore their usual road safety knowledge and walk out into the road while traffic was moving.
On that basis, we concluded that the ad did not encourage dangerous behaviour crossing a road for an adult audience, and was not irresponsible.
On that point, we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Compliance) and 4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
The ad was cleared without a scheduling restriction that would have prevented it from being broadcast in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children (an ex-kids restriction).
The woman was shown suddenly running over a zebra crossing while cars were still moving, exhibiting behaviour that was dangerous in the real world. We acknowledged the fantastical elements of the ad while the woman was shown on the street and crossing the road. However, we also noted that the road and zebra crossing themselves were not presented unrealistically or clearly identified as fantastical. While we concluded that adults would be able to distinguish between the fictional elements within the ad, children might not have appreciated the distinction, especially in the context of crossing a road and road safety. On that basis, we concluded that there was a danger that children could emulate the behaviour in the ad and therefore considered the ad was irresponsible.
We concluded that, to minimise the risk of children seeing it, the ad should have been given an ex-kids timing restriction.
On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not condone, encourage or unreasonably feature behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate. Advertisements must not implicitly or explicitly discredit established safety guidelines. Advertisements must not condone, encourage or feature children going off alone or with strangers.
This rule is not intended to prevent advertisements that inform children about dangers or risks associated with potentially harmful behaviour. (Children) and 32.3 (Scheduling).
We told Hydrow Ltd that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form without an appropriate scheduling restriction to ensure it was not broadcast in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children.