Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.

Ad description

Two TV ads and a VOD ad, for the perfume Black Opium:

a. The first TV ad featured a woman waking in the middle of the night and reaching to the other side of the bed, then searching for something on the bedside table. She was shown getting dressed, running along the balcony of a building's atrium, running down a brightly-lit tunnel, and then running down a dimly-lit, empty street. She was seen entering a building and a turning to face a man who had come up behind her. She moved towards him as if to kiss him, and a brief shot showed an unfocused close-up of her face against a brightly lit background. She was then shown reaching down behind the man's back to grab a perfume bottle he was holding. She moved away from him and sprayed the perfume on her throat and slumped back against a wall, looking relieved. A voice-over stated, "Black Opium, the new feminine fragrance. Yves Saint Laurent". The ad was cleared by Clearcast with no timing restriction.

b. The second TV ad was a shorter version of ad (a), and was also cleared by Clearcast with no timing restriction.

c. The VOD ad was the same as ad (b).


The ASA received 11 complaints.

1. Nine complainants challenged whether the TV ads were irresponsible and offensive, and suitable for children to see, because the woman's actions simulated, and therefore glamourised and trivialised, drug use and addiction.

2. Two complainants challenged whether the VOD ad was irresponsible and offensive, because the woman's actions simulated, and therefore glamourised, drug use and addiction.


1. & 2. L'Oréal (UK) Ltd trading as Yves Saint Laurent said the ads were created to support the launch of the new fragrance Black Opium, which formed part of the OPIUM perfume brand offering. They said the storyline of the ads related a passionate love story with no connection to drug use or addiction. The story was a modern quest of a woman running through the streets of Shanghai to find the man she loved and the perfume he had taken from her. The woman was shown waking up, reaching out to her lover to find he was not there, and then reaching for her perfume on the bedside table only to find that it had disappeared with her lover. They explained that the woman's lover had taken the perfume because he loved her and wanted to take an integral part of her − her scent − with him. The woman's action on finding him, in retrieving her perfume rather than kissing him, was intended to convey that she loved him but loved her perfume more. Yves Saint Laurent considered the ads did not suggest, as interpreted by the complainants, that the woman was a drug addict waking in the night and searching for a drug dealer. They said her reaction on spraying the perfume onto the base of her neck did not suggest drug use. They argued that it was common practice in perfume ads to use that type of scene, and that the perfume was sprayed from a distance away from her body and her head was tilted up. They considered there was no sense of the perfume being imbibed or the woman taking a 'hit'. Yves Saint Laurent said that throughout the ad the woman portrayed a calm demeanour, looked fresh, bright-eyed, clean, made-up and in control. They considered she therefore did not project the image of a drug addict.

Yves Saint Laurent said the imagery, and the overall creative including the song and filming techniques, were used to underpin the story of love and were not intended to suggest a drug-induced state. They believed the song would be recognised by the audience as a love song and was chosen to bring sensuality and femininity to the ad, and said the use of brief disjointed shots was a cinematic effect used to create tension and suspense in the love story. They highlighted that the ad concluded by focusing on the perfume bottle and the fragrance, which they believed reinforced the message that the woman was searching for her perfume because of its importance to her as part of her identity. Yves Saint Laurent also commented that the number of complaints received relative to the number of people who would have seen the ad demonstrated it had not caused serious or widespread offence or harm.

Clearcast, responding in relation to the TV ads, said they took the name of the product into account when approving the ad, and that ads for other perfumes in the OPIUM range had been broadcast with tag lines such as "your addiction" and imagery of a woman reclined on a couch stroking her neck and holding the bottle. They considered the ads were therefore in line with previous creative treatments which showed the perfumes as extremely desirable and something women would do anything to acquire.

Clearcast said the ad was typical of its genre in that it focused on the desire that women had for the fragrance. They considered the ad's storyline tried to convey that the fragrance was an essential part of the woman's make up, and to inspire feelings of want and aspiration in viewers. They said the woman looked stylish, alert, calm and in control and tracked her lover with ruthless determination, which they contrasted with how the woman might be portrayed if she was a drug addict. On finding her lover and retrieving her perfume, the woman enjoyed its scent in the same way as in ads for other fragrances in the range. They said the setting was edgy and the dark underground tone was intended to suggest that Black Opium was a less sophisticated and more avant-garde variant than other perfumes in the range, but there was nothing graphic or explicit in the ad. When approving the ad for broadcast they had therefore considered it did not warrant a scheduling restriction.

Channel 4, responding in relation to the VOD ad, said the ad had been reviewed in advance of broadcast by Clearcast who had advised broadcasters that it was suitable for transmission on VOD services with no restrictions. Channel 4 did not believe the ad was either irresponsible or offensive. The ad narrated a love story centred around a woman searching for her lover who had stolen her perfume. They considered there was nothing in the content to suggest the woman's actions simulated or glamourised drug addiction.


1. & 2. Not upheld

The ASA considered the overall presentation, style and storyline of the ads was typical of ads for fragrances and considered viewers would be likely to interpret the ads in that context. Whilst we acknowledged the concerns of the complainants, we considered there were no explicit references to drug use in the ads. We considered that viewers, including children, would understand that the woman was searching for her lover who had taken her perfume and that she was relieved to retrieve it from him, rather than interpreting the storyline as simulating or alluding to drug use or addiction. We therefore concluded the ads did not glamourise or trivialise drug use or addiction.

We investigated ads (a) and (b) under BCAP Code rules  1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.  (Responsible advertising),  4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.    4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.    4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety.  and  4.9 4.9 Advertisements must not condone or encourage violence, crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour.  (Harm and Offence), and  32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them.  (Scheduling of Television and Radio Advertisements - Under-16s), but did not find them in breach.

We investigated ad (c) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Responsible advertising) and  4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.  and  4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety.  (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.


1.2     32.3     4.1     4.2     4.4     4.9    

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.1     4.4    

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