A moving digital poster ad, seen in London underground stations in October 2011, featured black and white images of two women looking out directly at the viewer and who were posing and smiling as if in front of a mirror. The ad contained an image of the women in their underwear in a bedroom, as if getting ready for a night out and where one of the women was also wearing an open shirt. This image alternated with another image of the same women fully dressed, as if on a night out.
1. Three complainants objected that the ad was offensive and inappropriate for display in a public locations; and
2. one of the complainants also challenged whether the ad was unsuitable to be seen by children.
1. & 2. Marks and Spencer plc (M&S) stated that the ad was part of a series that was intended to showcase their Limited Collection of lingerie and clothing in a brand-identifiable way. They said careful consideration went into the concept of the two girls getting ready for a 'girls night out', and then clothed, showcasing their outfits once they were out. They believed that the ad was not offensive or unsuitable for public display where it could be seen by children.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA noted the ad appeared in London Underground stations, and alternated between two moving images in which the women were posing, as if in front of a mirror. We noted the first image featured the women posing, whilst getting ready for a night out and that the second image featured the same women posing again, when dressed up in glamorous clothing. We considered that, whilst the ad showed the women posing in a flirtatious way and could therefore be seen as mildly sexual, the images were not sexually suggestive or explicit. We acknowledged that some people might have found the public display of the images of the women in their underwear to be distasteful, but noted the content of the ad reflected the clothing products being sold and considered that the alternating images clearly told a story about the women getting ready for a night out.
We considered that, because the ad promoted lingerie and the images of the women posing in their underwear were juxtaposed with further images in which they were fully clothed, the ads were not unduly sexual in nature. We therefore concluded that the ad was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence or be considered unsuitable for public display in locations where it could be seen by children.
On these points 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.