Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.
Two TV ads and a Video on Demand (VOD) promoted the men's fragrance, Paco Rabanne XS:
a. The first TV ad, which was seen in July and August 2017, depicted a man walking into a bathroom. He was seen to have removed his suit jacket and became topless. Two women were then seen peering towards a light source in a dark room. The ad then featured a close up shot of the man’s hip area, with him standing behind a bath tap, which he proceeded to turn on. The ad then returned to the two women in a dark room, one of whom pushed the other out of the way. The man was shown walking towards a mirror and looking at his own reflection. The ad revealed a group of women standing behind a one-way mirror. The women watched through the mirror and became excited as the man caressed his chest. One woman was seen to turn away from the one-way mirror, becoming breathless. The man walked up close to the mirror as if looking closely at the reflection of his face and one of the women was seen to kiss the mirror on the other side. The ad then showed the man moving his hand downwards onto his abdomen. The women in the dark room began screaming. The ad then featured a bird’s eye view of the set with the man standing in the bathroom, separated, by a mirror and walls, from the group of women who were in a viewing room, with a few other women rushing to join the group. The ad then featured a close up, side shot of the man’s hip area, in which he was seen to be undoing his trousers zip. The women in the view room watched and fanned themselves. The ad showed the back of the man, who began pulling off his trousers with his buttocks obscured by the bathtub. The women in the viewing room began cheering at the one-way mirror, through which they could see the man who was now visibly naked, with his lower abdomen and hip area obscured. The man was then sprayed the perfume on either side of his neck. The ad cuts back to the women in the viewing room, clambering towards the one-way mirror. The ad then returned to a close-up shot of the man’s abdomen and showed him spraying the perfume towards his groin area. The women in the viewing room were then seen to faint and collapse on to the ground.
b. The second TV ad, seen in July and August 2017, was a shorter version of ad (a).
c. The VOD ad, seen on 4oD on 27 July 2017, was the same as ad (a).
The ASA received 120 complaints.
1. A number of the complainants, who believed ads (a), (b) and (c) were sexist and objectified the man depicted because he was seen as the subject of voyeurism, challenged whether the ads were offensive.
2. Some of the complainants, who believed that ads (a) and (b) were sexist because the women featured were depicted as powerless and weak and therefore reinforced stereotypes, challenged whether the ads were offensive.
3. Some of the complainants, one of whom saw ad (a) during Gogglesprogs on Channel 4, also challenged whether the ads were inappropriately scheduled to be shown when children might see it, due to the sexual nature of the ads.
1. Puig (UK Ltd) t/a Paco Rabanne stated they were a fragrance brand that presented an exaggerated, highly stylised and fantastical world through all of their campaigns. They said their audience had become accustomed to their ongoing humour and challenges between the sexes, empowering both men and women equally.
Paco Rabanne stated the environment in the ad was highly stylised and not intended to be reflective of real life. The main male character of the ad was in fact within his own home. He was aware of the attention he was getting and was playing up to that fact; on that basis, he was not a victim. They said that was indicated by the scenes when he entered the bathroom as he continually looked at where the women were situated – the picture that blinked at him, the bookshelf where the women’s hands were – and played up to them in the mirror; they believed these movements showed the playful intention and awareness he had of the women who were present.
Clearcast stated that the male character was an ‘Adonis’ who was aware of his physical beauty and that he appeared in a lavish, luxurious bathroom. They said the ad was clearly a staged, filmic and over-the-top setting and the man was confident and assured, with an amused look on his face. He appeared to be aware of his audience of women in the next room and was showing off to them, before he finally moved his trousers slightly lower and sprayed the fragrance downwards. Clearcast said that the women were portrayed as a little excited, but that that was part of the fun and hyperboles of the ad.
Clearcast stated the ad was no different to many ads for both men’s and women’s fragrances in that they generally consisted of over-the-top treatments in luxurious settings with a degree of sexuality, since wearing perfume was not just about wanting to smell good for oneself but also to attract others. The name of the fragrance was ‘Pure XS’ and ‘excess’ was demonstrated in the ad, both in the spraying of the fragrance, in the behaviour of the ‘Adonis’ male character, and in the women watching, for example, when they fainted in excitement.
Channel 4, as the VOD service provider in ad (c), stated they had not received any complaints directly in relation to the ad campaign. In relation to suitability, all of their VOD content was submitted to Clearcast for approval after which they followed the advice given. As the ad was given an ex-kids restriction but no timing restriction, they progressed with the ads’ suitability on those grounds and applied the restrictions accordingly.
2. Paco Rabanne stated both the male and female characters were simply playing roles which were depicted in a highly exaggerated and unrealistic manner. They said the female characters were all shown to act within their own control. During the ad, they demonstrated a very high ‘state of awareness’ of their actions and were alert, challenging each other in a kind of ‘game of attention’, which was demonstrative of the brand’s humour that formed the ongoing game of power between men and women.
Clearcast stated while the women were shown to be acting in an over-excited and perhaps silly manner, they did not believe the women were portrayed as weak and powerless. They reiterated that the ad was excessive, exaggerated and over the top, and should not be taken seriously.
3. Paco Rabanne said it had never been their intention to broadcast to children and the airtime was bought to target a young adult audience.
Clearcast said they considered the ex-kids restriction was sufficient for the treatment. In light of the complaints, they had reviewed the ad again and remained satisfied that any stronger restriction was not needed.
Channel 4 responded specifically to the scheduling of the ad to be shown during Gogglesprogs. Whilst Gogglesprogs was a show that featured children, it was not a show commissioned specifically for a child audience, but was made to appeal to a broad adult audience. They provided the relevant indexing data for the programme, which was shown at 8 pm historically on the Channel. They said the data formed the basis of the suitability of the programme to carry no advertising restrictions, due to its historically low appeal to audiences under the age of 16.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered it was unclear from the ad whether or not the male character was aware that he was or had consented to being watched in the bathroom via the one-way mirror.
Although the ad did not feature explicit nudity, it was heavily focused on the physical appearance of the male character. The ad featured multiple shots in which the male character was topless and his expressions when looking in the mirror suggested that he was admiring his own physique and attractiveness. We considered that this and the reactions of the women to him placed a strong emphasis on the attractiveness of the male character.
However, we noted the scenario depicted in the ad was not realistic and the tone was risqué but comedic and farcical. We considered the ad showed the male character’s attractiveness in a light-hearted, humorous way, rather than in a degrading or humiliating manner. We therefore considered viewers were likely to recognise the ad was a comical dramatisation of a surreal situation.
Whilst we acknowledged some might find the ad distasteful, we considered, for the above reasons, the ad did not objectify the male character and we concluded it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On that point, we investigated ads (a) and (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. (Harm and offence), and ad (c) under BCAP Code rule 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence), but did not find them in breach.
2. Not upheld
We considered because the women were seen to be watching the man, perhaps without his knowledge, it suggested they were in a position of power over the male character. We noted as the ad progressed and the male character was in various stages of undress, it was evident from the reactions of the women depicted they were increasingly being overcome with excitement. We further noted during one of the final scenes, all of the women were seen to have fainted and collapsed at the sight of the man spraying the fragrance towards his groin.
Whilst we acknowledged some might find the portrayal of the women in the ads uncomplimentary and distasteful, we noted the reactions of the women – for example, the scenes in which the women were shown to be breathless and screaming; another in which they were seen to be clambering over each other; and another in which one woman was seen to be kissing the one-way mirror – were exaggerated and caricaturised, which contributed to the overall comedic tone of the ad. In addition, because the setting of the ads was unrealistic and highly stylised, we considered viewers were likely to recognise that the ads portrayed the women in a farcical manner, which was removed from reality. For those reasons, we considered the ads were unlikely to reinforce stereotypes of women and concluded it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On that point, we investigated ads (a) and (b) under BCAP Code rule 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence), but did not find them in breach.
3. Not upheld
We understood some complainants, who saw the ad broadcasted during the afternoon and early evening, were concerned the ads had been inappropriately scheduled to be shown when children might see it, especially during the school holidays.
We understood the ads had been given an ex-kids timing restriction by Clearcast, which meant it should not be shown during or around programmes made for, or likely to appeal to children. We considered that although the ad was not sexually explicit its content was sexually suggestive, particularly in its portrayal of the man undressing, caressing his body and spraying the fragrance towards his groin area, and that the ad contained themes of the voyeurism, making it unsuitable for younger children. Because the ads had been given an ex-kids restriction, we considered the scheduling restriction applied had been appropriate.
We also noted that the ad had been scheduled at around 8.40 pm during Gogglesprogs on Channel 4 on 28 July 2017. The programme was a spin-off of the programme Gogglebox and featured children between the ages of 5 and 13 viewing and commenting on a selection of TV programmes and other content, such as ads and news headlines. We noted from Channel 4’s response that the programme was not commissioned or made specifically for children, but was made to appeal to a broad adult audience.
We also noted the historical BARB index data for the programme, which was provided by Channel 4, included a breakdown of a four-week rolling average index for children aged between 4 and 9, 4 and 15, and 10 and15, all of which indicated that the programme did not appear to be of particular appeal to children below the age of 16. We also considered the BARB data for the programme on 28 July 2017 which indicated that children made up a small proportion of the audience. There were approximately 1,031,000 viewers in total, including approximately 92,000 children; 50,000 of whom were children aged between 4 and 9 years, and 42,000 of whom were aged between 10 and 15 years. Notwithstanding that children were predominantly featured in Gogglesprogs, we considered that the ad was generally consistent with the type of ads that viewers were likely to expect to see during that time of the day and we did not consider that there was an unsuitable juxtaposition between the content of the ad and the programme during which it appeared.
Because the ad was not sexually explicit; it was not inconsistent with the type of ads that viewers would generally expect at that time of day; and there was not an unsuitable juxtaposition between the content of the ad and the programme Gogglesprogs, which was not of particular appeal to children, we concluded the ads had not been inappropriately scheduled.
On that point, we investigated the ads under BCAP Code rules 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. and 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and Offence), 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. and 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Scheduling), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.