A catalogue selling various products, including home furnishings, kitchenware and jewellery featured a number of ads for erotic books, including "Brief Encounters: A Woman's Guide to Casual Sex", "Shoot Your Own Adult Home Movies" and "Disciples of the Whip". The cover of each book was shown, some of which featured sexual imagery.
The complainant challenged whether the ads were offensive and inappropriate in a catalogue that could be seen by children.
Premier Offers Direct said they marketed their catalogues to those who had opted in to receive further offers from them. The complainant received the catalogue because she previously purchased a product from the advertiser in 2009 and that, at the time, had opted in for additional offers from the advertiser and third parties. They also said that the catalogue to which the complainant responded also contained similar adult-related products and that, had she objected at the time, they would have suppressed her from future mailings. They did not believe that the pictures or content of the ads were offensive.
The text that described each of the books was of a sexual nature and some of the covers featured sexual imagery. The ASA considered that such content was likely to cause offence when displayed in a medium that could be seen by children. We understood that the complainant had opted in to receive the catalogue. However, we were concerned that, by opting in, recipients were not made aware that they might receive sexually suggestive material as a result. Because the ad was addressed to general recipients and could therefore be seen by children we considered that it was irresponsibly targeted and concluded that it breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP (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).
The ad must not appear again. We told Premier Offers Direct not to include sexually provocative material in their catalogues in future, unless they were specifically targeted at recipients who had opted in to receive it.