A press ad, seen in The Sunday Times Culture magazine on 4 December 2022. The ad stated, “Dawn French is a huge twat.” The ad included a picture of Dawn French, and text stating “BACK DUE TO PHENOMENAL DEMAND.”
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Phil McIntyre Live Ltd said that it was regrettable that the ads had caused offence to the people who complained but that the title of the show was humorous, and aimed any offence at Dawn French herself. While the show itself was funny it also had a life-affirming message.
They said that the title of the show was important and that they would not advertise in media or locations that would not allow them to use the full title or required them to blank out certain letters. They explained that the term in question was one that was used by many people, including Dawn French, in their everyday lives.
The Sunday Times said they had no comment to make and would await the outcome of the ASA’s investigation. They confirmed they had received no complaints about the ad.
The CAP Code stated that ads must not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We noted that the ad appeared in The Sunday Times Culture magazine, and assessed it in the context of its appearance in that medium only, with regard to its likely audience in that medium.
The ASA considered the word twat had the potential to cause offence to audiences. We acknowledged that the word was the title of Dawn French’s live tour and that was the context in which it was used. We considered that most readers would likely be aware of who Dawn French was and her style of comedy, and that the use of the word would be understood by readers to be self-deprecating and tongue in cheek, and it was not, for example, used in a sexual context.
We understood that the word twat written in full was in line with the editorial style of The Sunday Times and that the word reflected similar use of language in the editorial sections of the newspaper where the word had been used in full, without any asterisks.
Given the above, we therefore concluded that whilst some readers may have found the ad distasteful, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to its audience, and concluded that it did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code rule 4.1 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.