Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Not upheld.
A cinema ad and a TV ad for a men's fragrance:
a. The cinema ad featured a man who walked into a room and clicked his fingers, which caused a vault style door to close behind him. When he clicked his fingers again, the lights came on and a woman stood up from a chair. They walked towards each other, briefly touched, and the woman then walked backwards and clicked her fingers, which caused a screen to close in front of her. The woman was shown dancing behind the screen and the man sat down on a bed. As the man clicked his fingers the ad cut to various images which included the woman removing her bracelets, a fireplace lighting up, ice cubes dropping into a drink and the woman's belt falling to the floor, followed by her dress, and her jewellery. The man stood up and clicked his fingers again. The room and the woman turned to gold and she emerged from behind the screen. She walked towards the man and he placed his hand on her waist and clicked his fingers, which caused the lights to go out. An image of the product appeared on screen with the text 'paco rabanne www.pacorabanne.com. The voice-over stated, "1 Million Intense. The new fragrance for men by Paco Rabanne."
b. The TV ad was similar to the cinema ad, but shorter in duration.
The ASA received five complaints.
1. One complainant challenged whether the cinema ad was offensive because he felt it was sexist and objectified women.
2. Four complainants challenged whether the TV ad was offensive on the same grounds.
1.& 2. Puig (UK) Ltd (Puig) said they did not believe the ads were offensive, sexist, or that they objectified women. They said the woman was not seen to be dominated by the man and that she appeared determined and sure of herself, and that it was her who took the decision to start the game between the pair of them. They advised that the ads were the fourth in a series of ads featuring the same couple, each of which reflected an element of their relationship as a game or a race and where there might be perceived to be a winner and that sometimes that was the male and sometimes the female. They said the events were portrayed as implausible and fantastical and occurred in a hyper-real environment, not based on any real life scenario.
2. With regard to the TV ad, Clearcast said they did not consider the ad offensive, but rather very surreal and stylised with the action taking place in a bank vault and with the characters, one of whom was turned into gold, possessing magical powers. They said the woman turning to gold was a reference to the James Bond film Goldfinger, but also that it heightened the surreal nature of the advert. They considered it important that the female character was shown to have exactly the same powers as the male character and that this was achieved when she clicked her fingers to make a door close. They further pointed out that the woman was shown physically removing her bangles after she went behind the dressing screen, which they felt implied that the man's clicking was speeding up an undressing process that had already been begun by the woman, rather than that he was removing her clothes against her will. They said after the woman had been turned to gold, she approached the man willingly and that he had not clicked his fingers immediately prior to this so they did not believe that he was forcing her to come to him or demanding that she come to him in a demeaning manner.
1. & 2. Not upheld
Whilst the ASA acknowledged the complainants' concern that the scenario featured in the ad was sexist and objectified women, we considered that the ad showed a surreally dramatized, but complicit seduction between the male and female characters, who had been shown to have equal magical abilities. Whilst we accepted that some viewers might find the ad distasteful, we did not consider that the female character was portrayed as inferior to the male character, or that she had been objectified. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offense.
We investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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) and 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.
No further action necessary.