A brochure for Healthy Living Direct, seen in June 2017, contained ads on one page for various products including a number of sex toys and sex aids. Two of the products, a sex toy entitled “The Pleasurable Way To Relieve Stress” and “Erecta Prompt Cream” had appeared in a previous ASA Adjudication. The ad also contained a listing for a sex toy called “The Terrific Clit O Riffic” that included a picture of the toy and a short description, stating “This vibrator is designed specifically to stimulate the clitoris. It has a unique flat head that allows maximum contact and stimulation”. Another listing was entitled “The One That Everyone Wants” with an image of a plastic toy which resembled female genitalia and a description that stated “Sure to give you an unforgettable experience and made from the amazingly lifelike UR3 material”. Another listing was entitled “Fatty Patty Doll with 3 Love Holes”. It contained an image of a box with a picture of a naked woman posed bending over with the name of the product on the top and below text stating “Colossal 3 Love Holes! ... She’s Large And In Charge”. The listing also contained descriptive text stating “Fatty Patty Doll - 3 Colossal Penetrating Holes. She’s Fatty Patty, and she’s livin’ large and in charge! Take this jumbo love doll home with you tonight … her 3 colossal love holes are begging to pleasure you!”. The preceding page contained a content warning which stated prominently, “Warning The Next Page Contains Adult Material” and graphic which stated “Adult Content Only for persons over 18 years of age”.
Kent County Council challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Kingstown Associates Ltd stated that they believed the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence for the same reasons as the ad complained about in the previous complaint, which the ASA did not uphold. They said that 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 acknowledged that we had previously considered the two product listings entitled “The Pleasurable Way to Relive Stress” and “Erecta Prompt Cream” under a previous ruling and considered that they were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. We further acknowledged that the magazine contained a disclaimer on the preceding page which warned readers that the ads on the following page would be of an adult nature. However, we noted that the brochure mostly sold general products under the title “Healthy Living” such as “Lung Exercisers” and slippers. Although we acknowledged that consumers would understand that the products following the content warning may have had an adult and sexual theme, we did not consider that, in that context, they would generally expect the following page to include explicit sexual images or descriptions.
We considered that the listing for the “Terrific Clit O Riffic” similarly was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence amongst those who saw it and that it would be in line with expectations given the disclaimer on the previous page. We considered that the image and the accompanying text were not presented in a shocking or provocative manner.
However, the “Fatty Patty Doll” listing included an image of a naked woman. Although we acknowledged that the pose of the image ensured that the woman’s genitalia and breasts were not fully visible, we considered that she was posed in a provocative and sexually explicit manner. We further considered that the words “Colossal 3 love holes! ... She’s large and in charge” and the product description were worded provocatively. We considered that, although the product was a doll, the image appeared to be of a real woman; combined with the text below, we considered that the listing objectified women by presenting them in a sexually explicit manner. We further considered that the listing entitled “The One That Everyone Wants!” included an image of a product designed to look like female genitalia that we considered was both realistic and sexually explicit.
We acknowledged that by their nature, these products would include sexualised text or images and that they were signposted on the previous page. However, in this case we considered that the images and text for these products was overly explicit and went further than readers would expect in the context of the catalogue overall, even with the included warning. In the case of the “Fatty Patty Doll” we considered the content was also degrading towards women. Taken altogether, we therefore concluded that in this context the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Kingstown Associates Ltd to ensure that their ads were not likely to cause serious or widespread offence.