Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
An ad, on the side of buses, for the film "Sin City 2". It featured images of some of the characters. The heads and shoulders of four men and two women were arranged either side of a full-length image of Jessica Alba wearing a bra, gloves and suspender-effect tights. Her mouth was partly open and she was kneeling with her knees spread apart and one arm raised over her head.
The ASA received two complaints:
1. one complainant objected that the ad was unsuitable for public display in an untargeted medium where it could be seen by children; and
2. both complainants objected that the ad was offensive because it was overtly sexual, sexist and degrading to women.
Lions Gate UK Ltd stated that the media owner had approved the image specifically for use on a bus. They said that the poster was based on the style used in the graphic novels on which the film was based, and that the characters therefore looked more cartoon-like and stylised than realistic people. They considered that this 'comic book' execution meant that the ad would not cause offence because it was not realistic. They did not believe that the image of Jessica Alba was overtly sexual, sexist or degrading to women, and noted that such a look was not out of place in the windows of some fashion retailers.
Exterion Media Ltd stated that they approved the ad for public display after having sought CAP Copy Advice.
1 & 2. Not upheld
The ASA noted Lions Gate's assertion that the ad would not cause offence because the images of the characters were unrealistic. However, we considered that although the depictions were somewhat stylised they were still clearly real images of actors portraying the characters and that an air of surrealism would be insufficient to dispel the potential for such images to cause harm or offence. Nonetheless, while we appreciated that some consumers might find the focus on Alba's character and the pose used distasteful, we considered that the image was no more than mildly sexual in nature and not so suggestive as to be generally offensive or inappropriate for untargeted public display. We also considered that the image was clearly used in the context of promoting a film and that consumers would appreciate that it showed Alba's portrayal of a specific character, thereby reflecting an aspect of her role in particular, rather than women in general, and that it was consequently unlikely to provoke serious or widespread offence by being regarded as sexist or degrading towards women.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social Responsibility) 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.
No further action required.