A magazine ad for Polar Design, a print and design company, included a photograph of a woman's breasts with text stating "Need business cards?". One breast was partially covered by a Polar Design business card with a man's fingers poised as if to peel the business card away from the page. The other breast was covered by a glued on business card, which, when peeled away, revealed text stating "Don't wait until your last business card Order Now! 014 xxxx".
A reader, who believed the ad was sexist and objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
Polar Design said the ad was placed to create brand awareness and they could not understand how it could be seen to be in breach of the CAP Code.
Scottish Provincial Press (SPP), publishers of Executive magazine, said they recognised that the ad was on the more liberal side of the taste spectrum, but did not believe that it would cause offence to their readers. Before publishing the ad, they sought the opinion of their local Chamber of Commerce who, after consulting their female members of staff, concluded that whilst some people might find the ad distasteful, it was unlikely to cause offence. SPP also asked their own female staff who, although some found it distasteful, did not find it offensive.
SPP explained that the demographic of their magazine was 100% adult. While they acknowledged that the ad might not be to all tastes, they saw no reason why it would cause offence or be viewed as objectifying women.
The ASA noted the ad featured an image of a woman's breasts and, although the image was not sexually explicit, it had sexual connotations with an implicit invitation to remove the business card to reveal her nipple. We also noted the image bore no relevance to the advertised services, and considered it was therefore likely to be seen as sexist and to demean women by using their physical features for no other reason than to draw attention to the ad.
Although we acknowledged the steps taken by SPP before publishing the ad, we nonetheless concluded that it was likely to cause serious offence to some readers of the magazine.
The ad breached 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.