A Flyer for an IT consultancy, which was distributed at a trade exhibition, was headlined "Visit REACT at IP Expo 2012". The ad featured an image of a woman's bare legs from the thighs down. She was shown bending over with her hands on her knees. Her underwear had been pulled down to below her knees.
The complaint objected that the ad was offensive and demeaning to women.
REACT Innovative Solutions (REACT) stated that the reason for using the image of the legs was to stand out from the hundreds of other similar stands selling technology and to help attendees remember them. They said the event was attended by adults only and that the ad was in no way intended to demean women. They said they had shown the ad to women in their company prior to attending the Expo and that none of them had found it offensive.
The ASA noted the leaflet was handed out to attendees at an Internet Protocol Expo. We understood that such Expos were attended by both men ad woman who worked within the Internet technology business sector. We considered the image of the woman's legs with her pants around her knees was presented in such a way that suggested she was naked and that her pose could be interpreted as being sexually suggestive. Furthermore, the image was unrelated to the product being sold and no link was presented in the ad between the text and the image. We concluded that use of the image in the ad was gratuitous and degrading to women and was likely to cause serious offence to some attendees of the Expo.
The ad breached CAP Code (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 should not appear again in its current form.