A magazine ad, for Levi jeans, published in October 2011 featured three young people holding lit fireworks. Text stated "WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, HAVE YOU DONE OR SAID ENOUGH? HAVE YOU JUST GONE ALONG FOR THE RIDE, OR HAVE YOU STEERED DESTINY'S HOT ROD? WHEN YOU LEAVE THIS WORLD, DID YOU MAKE IT ANY BETTER THAN IT WAS WHEN YOU ARRIVED? ALL YOU NEED IS ALL YOU'VE GOT; YOUR WITS AND THE CLOTHES ON YOUR BACK. YOUR EPITAPH IS YOURS TO EARN; YOUR LEGACY IS YOURS TO MAKE. GO FORTH".
A reader challenged whether the ad was harmful and irresponsible, because it might encourage young people to play with lit fireworks.
Levi Strauss & Co (Levi) said they acted responsibly in their advertising and therefore banned references to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or culturally or sexually offensive stereotypes in their ads, and it was never their intention to encourage any potentially dangerous behaviour for children.
Levi said the ad was part of their 'Go Forth' campaign, which was targeted at men and women over the age of 20 years and the ad did not appear in any media targeted at children. They said the models in the ad were over 19 years old and the clothes they wore were from Levi's adult range and not the children's line. They understood that 93% of the readership for Mixmag magazine, where the ad appeared, was over the age of 18. They believed that, even if a child did see the ad, the fireworks were shown to be used as safely as possible.
Levi explained that the fireworks were designed to be used safely when held vertically, as depicted in the ad, and the models were also shown standing at least two metres apart. They said the location was an open space with no trees or flammable items nearby. Levi said, although they did not believe that the ad would encourage children to play with fireworks, they had decided not to use the image again.
Mixmag said they took the view that, because the models were on a beach looking across a bay, that they were holding marine flares. They said no readers had complained about the ad directly to them.
The ASA understood that the fireworks were designed to be hand held, but considered that that would not be clear to readers, who would simply see young people holding lit fireworks. We noted the fireworks were used in an open space and away from flammable objects, but considered that such safety precautions did not negate the main image of the ad, which was one of young people holding exploding fireworks. We understood that the models were aged over 19 years, but because they were shown from behind, considered that they could easily be mistaken for younger teenagers.
We acknowledged that the ad was targeted at men and women over the age of 20, but also noted that it was not possible to prevent some children and young people from seeing the ad. We noted the ad appeared in late October around the time of Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night and Diwali, all of which were commonly celebrated with fireworks. We also considered that the text in the ad, which included "YOUR EPITAPH IS YOURS TO EARN" and "YOUR LEGACY IS YOURS TO MAKE", encouraged risk taking and daring and, combined with the picture of what looked like youngsters holding lit fireworks, was likely to appeal to some young adults as an act of bravado.
We considered that the ad was likely to be seen as showing the harmful practice of holding lit fireworks and, given the potential for easy emulation especially at that time of year, concluded that it condoned and encouraged an unsafe practice.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility) and 4.5 4.5 Marketing communications, especially those addressed to or depicting a child, must not condone or encourage an unsafe practice (see Section 5: Children). (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Levi not to use easily emulated unsafe practices in their advertising in the future.