A TV ad for an internet security product, seen in December 2016, featured a young woman taking selfies with her mobile phone as she unbuttoned her shirt, revealing she was wearing nothing underneath. She said, "I want to show myself. But only to my boyfriend". The next scene featured a man and woman in bed looking at something on their laptop. The scene cut to a shot of their son next door on his tablet device. They said, "We want our son to feel free surfing online, but not access the stuff we like." In the next scene a woman said, "We want to shop online ... without risking our credit card details." In the final scene, the characters said, "I want to be protected." An end-frame featured a pack shot of the product and text stating "Helping protect your internet experience".
Seventy viewers challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and could cause harm to people under the age of 18, because they believed it normalised the practice of sending explicit images by text and implied that the internet security protection offered by Kaspersky would protect young people from third parties seeing explicit pictures of them.
Kaspersky Lab UK Ltd said they were sorry that the ad had been challenged by so many viewers for being irresponsible and they would try not to upset viewers in future. They did not provide a substantive response to the complaint, but said the ad was no longer being used and would not be used in future.
Clearcast explained that the ad featured three different scenarios, each one illustrating the different levels of protection offered by the product – data, devices and family members. The first scenario featured a young adult about to take a revealing photograph to send to her boyfriend. At script stage, they had acknowledged there was a potential for harm and offence. It was decided that the sending and receiving of personal photos was acceptable in theory, providing the characters were clearly consenting adults. They said that whilst the practice might not be widespread or common, they were prepared to accept the ad on the basis that it did not seek to encourage the practice and it was scheduled appropriately. They also noted that the visuals were not explicit and formed only one element of a three part story, all of which were relevant to the product being advertised. The finished ad was approved with a post-9pm scheduling restriction.
The ASA noted that the ad had a post-9pm scheduling restriction and as a result, considered younger children were unlikely to see it. We also noted that the scene in question was brief and was one of three different storylines portrayed in the ad. We considered that although the woman featured looked young, she appeared to be 18 or over. We considered it was clear from the ad that the young woman was about to take a topless photo of herself on her mobile phone to send to her boyfriend. We noted that the ad was demonstrating the various ways the internet protection product could be used – for example, protecting a child from seeing material on the internet that was not suitable for them and protecting someone’s credit card details when shopping online. We did not, however, consider that older children who saw the ad would draw the conclusion that the internet security product would provide protection against third parties seeing personal photos if they were shared by the recipient.
However, we considered the other scenarios were everyday occurrences and that by including alongside them the scene of the woman taking a personal photo of herself to send to her boyfriend, the ad did have the effect of normalising that behaviour; a practice that, we noted, was easy to emulate and could have negative consequences for young people because of the sexual content of the material. We consulted with the NSPCC, and a spokesperson stated that seeing adults engaging in the sending of sexualised images may reinforce the perception that the activity – which presented real risks for children and young people – was widespread and may increase the pressure and coercion that young people already experienced to engage in the practice.
Because the ad had the effect of normalising the act of taking and sending explicit photos on a mobile phone, we concluded that it had the potential to cause harm to under 18s and was therefore irresponsible. We welcomed Kaspersky's comments that the ad had been withdrawn and would not be used again.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Kaspersky Lab UK Ltd to ensure in future their ads were socially responsible and did not contain anything likely to cause harm to people under the age of 18 years.