Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
Three TV ads for Photobox Ltd, an online photo printing company, seen in November 2017:
a. One ad featured scenes of a family having a barbeque in the garden and showed a young boy sitting on a large dog whilst both his parents took a picture. During those scenes background music was played with a voice-over that stated, “I am the master of my craft. A virtuoso of photographic dynamite. This pleasant get together shall soon be shattered for a photo storm bruise. Mum, dad, weird cousin Brian hold aloft your camera phones for you are about to capture gold. Consider that full page panoramic spread mind for this. This, is Photobox gold”.
Ads (b) and (c) were abridged versions of ad (a).
The ASA received a complaint from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and 212 complaints from members of the public.
1. Some complainants, including the RSPCA, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it was harmful to the dog that appeared in the ad.
2. Most complainants, including the RSPCA, objected that the ad was irresponsible as they believed the ad might encourage children or adults to emulate behaviours which they believed were potentially unsafe for them and their dogs.
1. Photobox Ltd stated that they maintained a close working relationship with Clearcast to ensure all elements of the BCAP code were adhered to. A number of measures were taken during production of the ad to ensure that no physical harm was caused to persons under the age of 18 years. Whilst on set, the boy and the dog were filmed completely separately so as to ensure the safety of both parties and that at no point did the boy actually sit on the dog.
Photobox stated that a qualified vet was on set for the duration of the production and attested to the welfare of the dogs that were featured in the ad, and provided a copy of the certificate the vet had signed-off.
Photobox referred to the certificate and quoted the following text, “KALIFA” and “MUFASA, with microchip numbers 941000016255013; DOGO and 941000016255016; DOGO. I confirm they are in perfect health and hygienic conditions. Moreover, I can confirm that the hygienic and sanitary conditions in which they were accommodated was [sic] optimal. The animals were never placed under any risk or suffered any damage during the shooting. Finally, and after having verified that the vehicle has the necessary conditions for transport, I can confirm that the animals have been transported in a safe and hygienic manner to and from the set, being supervised by a veterinary specialist”.
Clearcast stated that cruelty to animals was a topic that they were always mindful of and because of that, they told Photobox that they would need a vet’s certificate from the shoot to alleviate any concerns surrounding the wellbeing of the dogs used in the ad. They received the vet’s certificate and provided us with a copy, which they stated indicated how the dogs used in the ad were not harmed. They made direct references from the certificate, which stated “The animals were never placed under any risk or suffered any damage during the shooting”. Because of that, Clearcast were satisfied that the dogs had not come to any harm as a result of the ad.
Clearcast stated that the dog shown in the ad did not look upset or in distress, and appeared to be quite content.
2. Photobox stated that an ex-kids restriction was placed on the ad, which meant that it could not appear in programing aimed at children, so as to ensure they were able to prevent emulation by young children.
Photobox believed that the scene showing the boy sitting on a dog was clearly fantastical. Every element of the execution had been crafted to heighten the reality, so that it clearly went beyond the realms of possibility to an adult viewer, which Photobox believed they had delivered on with the ex-kids scheduling restriction that applied.
Clearcast stated that they had considered the implications of whether the ad showing the child sitting on a dog would be dangerous for children to emulate, and therefore applied an ex-kids scheduling restriction so that it would not be shown around children’s programming. They believed that this made it unlikely for children to emulate the child sitting on the dog or come to harm as a result.
Clearcast stated that there were adults present throughout the ad, which they considered did not make the ad appear irresponsible.
Clearcast believed that the entire treatment of the ad was very surreal and light-hearted in tone, and did not depict an everyday situation. They believed that it was unlikely to arise in real life and therefore the chances of emulation were unlikely. Therefore, Clearcast believed that the ad was unlikely to encourage or condone cruelty to animals or cause serious or widespread offence in this regard.
1. Not upheld
The ASA understood that the scene showing the boy sitting on the back of a dog (a Great Dane) was created by visual special effects, and that at no point was he physically sitting on the dog during the production of the ad.
We acknowledged the vet’s certificate provided by Photobox and Clearcast, and were content that the two dogs used for the ad were not harmed during production.
Because of that, we had no reason to believe the dogs used for the ad were mistreated during filming and concluded did not breach the Code.
On this point we investigated ads (a), (b) and (c) under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 4.11 4.11 Television only – Animals must not be harmed or distressed as a result of the production of an advertisement. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We understood that the ad had depicted a young boy sitting on the back of a dog (a Great Dane), which was created by visual special effects.
The scene was set in a back garden of a property at a family event where a barbeque was taking place, which we considered was an environment that viewers would identify with. We noted that the ad showed how the boy’s parents had abruptly stopped what they were doing when they recognised that he was sitting on the dog, which they immediately wanted to capture on camera. They were then shown to be anxiously preparing to take a picture of the boy sitting on the dog. Furthermore, a third person (a man) was shown with his eyebrows raised, looking impressed by the boy’s action. This portrayed the adult characters in the ad as encouraging and normalising the child’s behaviour.
However, we noted that the child was dressed-up in a costume whilst he was sitting on the dog and we considered viewers would understand from this that he was performing in a role-playing game. This made the scene highly fantastical, which we considered was unlikely to have the effect of encouraging children and adults to emulate a behaviour that could be dangerous for both children and dogs.
We acknowledged that an ex-kids scheduling restriction had been applied to the ad so that it would not be shown around children’s programming. We considered that this further made it unlikely for children to emulate the child sitting on the dog or come to harm as a result.
Because of that, we considered that the ad was unlikely to have the effect of encouraging children and adults to emulate a behaviour that could be dangerous for both children and dogs and concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.
On this point we investigated ads (a), (b) and (c) under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.
Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18.
Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety.
(Harm and offence) and
Advertisements must not condone, encourage or unreasonably feature behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate. Advertisements must not implicitly or explicitly discredit established safety guidelines. Advertisements must not condone, encourage or feature children going off alone or with strangers.
This rule is not intended to prevent advertisements that inform children about dangers or risks associated with potentially harmful behaviour. (Children), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.