Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A post on recruiter JD Recruitment's Facebook page, seen on 5 October 2021, featured details about a Branch Manager position. An image embedded in the post showed a woman covered in black paint, wearing bold red lipstick and an open leather jacket, licking her lips and covering her breasts with her left hand.
1. The complainant, who believed the ad featured a woman in blackface, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious offence.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious offence because the image objectified the woman.
Response1. & 2. JD Recruitment Group Ltd said that they had not intended to cause any offence with the image and had used it to provide a striking visual image along with the subject matter of the post – a job opportunity in the Blackburn area. They said that, on reflection, they could see how the image might have caused offence, and objectified the woman depicted, and that they would ensure they were more aware of the issues raised in future marketing communications.
The CAP Code required marketers to ensure that ads did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, with particular care to be taken to avoid causing offence on various grounds of protected characteristics, including race.
The ASA noted that the woman shown was covered in black paint, with bold red lipstick, and the whites of the woman’s eyes were prominent, contrasted against the black paint. We considered that imagery shared strong similarities with “blackface” makeup, which had historic connotations with mocking portrayals of black people. We understood that was a negative racial stereotype and was widely considered to be racist in nature.
We therefore considered its use in the ad was likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race and concluded the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
We noted that the post was for a job vacancy, and the image of a partially topless woman bore no relation to the listing being advertised. We considered that the pose was suggestive in nature, with the woman depicted licking her lips suggestively and covering her exposed breasts with her hand. We considered that the ad was likely to have the effect of objectifying the woman by using her physical features to draw attention to an unrelated job listing. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to have caused serious offence.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told JD Recruitment Group Ltd to ensure they avoided causing serious offence on the grounds of race. We also told them not to portray women in a manner that objectified them and was likely to cause serious offence.