Two magazine ads for Longstone Classic Tyres:
a. The first ad appeared in The Automobile, dated March 2017, and included a photograph of a woman lying on her back, with a partial view of a vehicle tyre. One leg was bent at the knee with the other leg crossed over it and the woman had tools in her hand and appeared to be doing repairs to the tyre. The woman was fully clothed but her skirt was pulled up around her waist, revealing stockings and suspenders and her underwear showed the underside of her buttocks and the top of her thigh on one leg and the inner thigh of the other leg.
b. The second ad appeared in “Safety Fast!” the MG Car Club magazine, dated April 2017, and included a stylised illustration of a red classic car in the background. In the foreground, a woman stood dressed in a bra, knickers, tights and suspenders, elbow length black gloves, wearing high heels with one leg bent at the knee and displaying a coquettish manner.
Two complainants, who believed the images were sexually explicit and objectified women, challenged whether the ads were offensive and irresponsible.
John Hudson Trailers Ltd t/a Longstone Tyres said in relation to ad (a) that it was a light-hearted genuine 1920s photo, evoking the era the tyres were from and followed a theme of period photos regularly seen in classic car magazines in keeping with the audience. The specific tyre shown was still in production and sold by them. They told us that they had used the print for some 15 years and it had been a key image in their brand book since the company established a marketing strategy. In that time the image had been reproduced as posters, banners and adverts, which had been highly requested by members of the public.
In relation to ad (b) Longstone Tyres said the underwear worn by the model was period style and was featured as a result of collaboration with a vintage inspired lingerie company, who sold their products at vintage and classic car events because of the growing number of women interested in vintage cars. The campaign with the lingerie company was part of an on-going joint marketing partnership which targeted their shared brand demographics and values of quality and tradition. This was part of a wider collaboration which included events marketing and product placement and this would be difficult to achieve without showing the product. Versions of the ad had been running since 2014. They said that in order to make the collaboration more explicit to their audience, they could increase the lingerie company’s logo substantially on future advertisements. They also said this market place was valid and related, given the boom in the last decade in the popularity of the retro/period lifestyle.
In relation to both ads, Longstone Tyres said that the photos they included in their advertising came from suggestions made by their customers and vintage car clubs. Their audience was adult and as such had the capacity to be rational. They believed that rather than being sexually explicit or objectifying women, the ads celebrated women. They said that the nature of art and design was subjective and therefore accepted it would not be pleasing to everyone.
The Automobile said in relation to ad (a) that Longstone Tyres had advertised with them for more than 25 years. They said the products sold by Longstone Tyres were directly relevant to their readership, which according to their most recent reader survey in 2014, was comprised entirely of adults, mainly aged over 50.
MG Car Club said in relation to ad (b) that the ads appeared in many other motoring and classic car publications nationally and that the publication the ad appeared in was only distributed to the 10,500 MG Car Club members. They said that they carried advertising from Longstone Tyres for many years and had not received any complaints from members. They also said that according to their survey carried out in 2007, their membership demographic was predominantly mature male. MG Car Club said that they considered the style of advertising before accepting it and felt it was congruent with both the product and the target market, which was owners of period motor cars, and so did not consider the stylised image to be sexually explicit or to objectify women.
In relation to ad (a) the ASA considered that the pose adopted by the model was suggestive but not sexually explicit and there were no explicit sexual references in the ad. The model was shown as undertaking a repair of a tyre, and the pose was not dissimilar to that which would have been required for the task.
In relation to ad (b) although the model was dressed in underwear with a flirtatious pose, we considered that the image was not sexually explicit. We further noted the image was stylised and artistic and we did not consider the images would be regarded by the publication's mostly adult readers as anything more than sexually suggestive in nature.
However, while we noted the intended link between classic car tyres and the vintage images in the ads, we noted that neither of the images were directly relevant to the product advertised. We understood that the depiction of a woman doing repairs to a vehicle could be perceived as empowering women and presenting her as resourceful. However, we considered that the angle the photograph was taken from meant that there was only a partial view of both the tyre and the models hands undertaking the repairs. The visual emphasis was on the models upper thighs and buttocks which made those exposed areas of her body the focus of attention.
In relation to the second image, we noted that the logo of the lingerie company did appear in the ad, but was small and placed in the bottom corner and its connection to the advertiser was unlikely to have been readily apparent to the magazine’s readers. We considered that the image of the woman in her underwear standing in front of the car made her the focus of the ad.
We concluded that both ads were not sexually explicit but that, by using suggestive images of women that bore no relevance to the advertised product, the ads objectified women and were therefore offensive.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence)
The ads must not appear again in their current forms. We told Longstone Tyres that their future advertising must not cause offence by objectifying women.