A brochure titled Healthy Living Direct Magazine and seen in November 2016, contained ads for a number of sex toys and aids.
The complainant, who believed the advertised products were offensive to women, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Kingstown Associates Ltd said the ad was included in a catalogue that was targeted at older audiences and that there was a disclaimer on the preceding page which warned readers about the adult nature of the ads on the following page.
They added that in order to receive the catalogue, customers had to sign up to receive it through another catalogue, distributed through national newspapers and magazines. Customers would, therefore, be aware that the catalogue was marketed to older audiences when they signed up to it.
Kingstown Associates maintained that they picked products which were not likely to offend and they did not consider the items in the catalogue to have been presented in an offensive manner.
The ASA noted that the catalogue was targeted at and distributed to an adult audience. While we acknowledged that some people would find the images and descriptions of the products in the ads (which included photos of products that imitated sex organs) distasteful, we considered that the images and the accompanying text were not presented in a shocking or provocative manner.
The ads were included towards the back of the catalogue with a prominent disclaimer on the previous page which warned customers who might be offended that the next page contained “adult material” as well as an age restriction which said “Only for persons over 18 years of age”. In that context, we concluded the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence amongst those who saw them.
We investigated under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) and
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), but did not find it in breach.