Ad description

An outdoor poster for Lamb and Co Property, an estate agent, seen in January 2022 at the entrance of Waterglade Retail Park in Clacton. The billboard featured an image of a sheep, alongside large text which stated “What the flock you looking at?”, with the word “flock” emphasised in gold font. Underneath this, text stated “We’re baa-rilliant at getting your property noticed too”.


The complainant challenged whether the ad was:

1. offensive as it alluded to using an expletive; and

2. inappropriate for display where it could be seen by children


 1 & 2. Lamb & Co Property Ltd said that the aim of the ad was not to cause offence. They said that, since launching, they had built their brand identity upon wordplay with their name, and that their brand was known locally for using sheep visuals and sheep terminology to convey their business to consumers in a unique way.

Lamb & Co said that there was no ambiguity with the use of “flock” and that it was seen alongside other sheep references such as “baa-rilliant”, which was also emphasised in gold font, as well as a large image of a sheep. They believed the tone in which the word “flock” was used had a positive emphasis, and conveyed humour and cheekiness, rather than a negative or derogatory tone associated with expletives. They said that the positive tone was reinforced by the large image of the sheep, which had its tongue sticking out.

In relation to the location of the poster, Lamb & Co said that because the ad did not include any expletive language or derivatives of expletive language, it seemed unlikely to assume that a child would understand that the word “fuck” had been substituted for the word “flock”. They shared that before launching the campaign, they had carried out consumer research amongst the children of staff to understand how the average child would interpret the word “flock” in the phrase. They said that none of the children surveyed, apart from one who was aged 17, recognised that it alluded to an expletive. They also said that the ad had been popular amongst children and family audiences, and as a result of community feedback, they had run a social media competition for children to name the sheep in December 2021.

Lamb and Co noted several previous ASA rulings in which the ads featured words that alluded to expletives which had been ‘not upheld’. They also referenced an ASA ruling that was upheld but which they believed was not similar to this case, since the word in that case rhymed with the expletive it alluded to.


1 & 2. Upheld

The CAP Code stated that ads must be prepared with a sense of responsibility, and must not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The ASA acknowledged that the word “flock” was relevant to the brand identity of Lamb & Co. We also acknowledged that the ad did not contain the expletive “fuck”. However, we considered that many people would understand the word “flock” was used as an alternative to the word “fuck”, and that it alluded to the expression “What the fuck are you looking at?”. We considered that “fuck” was a word so likely to offend that it should not generally be used or alluded to in advertising, regardless of whether it was used in a playful manner.

We understood that the poster was situated at an entrance to a retail park where it was likely to be seen by people of all ages, including children. We considered the image of a sheep with its tongue sticking out was one which would likely have appeal to children. Whilst we recognised that the ad may have been popular with some family audiences and children, we considered it likely that parents would want their children to avoid the word, or obvious allusions to it.

For those reasons we concluded that the allusion to the word “fuck” in ads with a general adult audience was likely to cause serious offence, and that it was irresponsible for them to appear where children could see them.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).


The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Lamb & Co Property Ltd to avoid using words or phrases which were likely to cause serious offence.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.1    

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