Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, of which one was Upheld and one was Not upheld.
A digital billboard ad for Lovehoney, seen on 8 February 2023 at Clapham Junction station, featured an image of a ball gag and large text that stated “Silence is golden, Harry”. Smaller text underneath stated “Spare ball gags available at www.lovehoney.co.uk”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was:
1. offensive; and
2. inappropriate for display in an untargeted medium where children could see it.
1. Lovehoney Group Ltd t/a Lovehoney said that they did not believe that the ad was offensive.
The ad was launched in response to the release of Prince Harry’s memoir. They pointed to the fact the memoir contained a number of indiscreet revelations, some of which had a sexual reference. At the time the ad was published, Lovehoney issued a press release that explained their motivation for the ad and how it should have been understood, which included that it was meant to be humorous and that not all family stories needed to be shared with the public.
2. They did not believe that the ad was inappropriate for display in an untargeted medium where children could see it. A ball gag had no explicit sexual reference and its way of use was not readily identifiable without further knowledge. Children would not recognise it as a sex toy, and there was nothing in the ad to change that. Neither the picture nor the text spoke to children and therefore made it uninteresting to them. They would, therefore, either ignore it or, at most, wonder what it was about, yet, without seeing any inappropriate hints. Lovehoney therefore believed that this was insufficient to exceed the threshold of inappropriateness.
1. & 2. London Lites, the media site owner, acknowledged the complaint but did not provide a substantive response.
1. Not upheld
The ad featured a large image of a ball gag and text that stated “Silence is golden, Harry.” and “Spare ball gags available at www.lovehoney.co.uk”. We understood that a ball gag was a sex toy that was placed in the mouth of a person to limit them from talking.
The ASA considered that some people would find the image of, and references to, a ball gag and the implication that it should be used to stop someone from speaking distasteful. However, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
The ad appeared on a digital billboard at a busy train station, which was an untargeted medium, where it had the potential to be seen by a large number of people, including children.
As referenced above, the ad included a large image of a ball gag and a reference to ball gags in the text in the poster, which we considered inappropriate for children to see. We considered that while younger children were likely to be unaware of what the item was, older children might have greater awareness of what the object was intended for. We therefore considered that the ad was inappropriate for outdoor display where it could be seen by children.
We concluded that the ad had been irresponsibly targeted.On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Lovehoney Group Ltd to ensure that their ads were appropriately targeted.