A TV ad and cinema ad for a Samsung Smart Watch, seen in April 2022:
a. The TV ad featured a woman waking up in her bed in the middle of the night, checking the time on her Smart Watch and it stating 2 am. She was then seen getting up, putting in wireless earbuds and going outside for a run through the streets of a large city. As she ran, a large owl was seen following her overhead. She ran past groups of people and people on their own, and was seen greeting some and high-fiving one of them. At one point she passed a dance studio where a ballerina was rehearsing inside.
The voice-over stated, "Sleep at night. Run faster. Push harder. Follow the herd. Not for me. I run on a different schedule. Mine." At the end, she turned around and the owl disappeared.
b. The cinema ad was identical to ad (a).
IssueTwenty-seven complainants, who noted the number of recent high profile cases where women had been attacked in similar circumstances, challenged whether by showing a woman jogging alone at 2 am through city streets whilst wearing earphones, the ads were irresponsible and harmful by encouraging an unsafe practice.
Samsung Electronics (UK) Ltd acknowledged that the ads might have been perceived as insensitive by some viewers, particularly given the recent high-profile attacks on women at night, and they apologised for that. They said they would not be showing the ads again in the UK. However, they were unsure whether the ads breached the advertising codes and welcomed a ruling to provide clarity.
They said the ads were not intended to encourage women to go running at night. They were intended to celebrate individuality and demonstrate the use of Samsung products when exercising, whatever the time of day.
They pointed out that the unsafe element complained about related to the risk of predatory individuals attacking the woman shown in the ads and that running alone at night, of itself, did not present that risk. They said the victims of attacks (who had chosen to run alone at night) should never be blamed or judged for deciding to take the risk and they believed that a ruling that advertisers could not show individuals running alone might be perceived in that way. They acknowledged that the risk of attacks by predatory individuals may be higher at night or in city environments. However, the risk did not only present itself in that scenario; it also presented in numerous other scenarios shown in advertising, such as individuals taking a taxi alone, walking alone at any time of day, getting drinks in a bar, going on a first date, etc. They also believed there was a risk of there being harmful gender stereotyping if advertising rules did not allow advertisers to show women engaging in activities which presented a risk of a predatory individual attacking them, but allowed for men to be shown undertaking the same activity (for example, if the rules only allowed for men to be shown running alone at night).
Samsung said if there was a concern that the use of earbuds shown in the ads reduced safety, the ASA should be aware that the product had a feature which allowed the user to amplify ambient sound (so that ambient sound was not blocked out by the earbuds).
Clearcast explained that when considering ad (a) they had discussed the issue of violence against female runners. Their decision was that to not clear the ad would be to place the fault for the violence on the female runners rather than on the perpetrators of the violence. They could understand that the ad could have been perceived as insensitive to some viewers, given recent tragic events, but they did not believe the ad breached the advertising code.
They understood, in relation to previous ASA rulings, that a breach of BCAP Code rule 4.4 was generally related to something in the behaviour of a person in the ad that was judged to be irresponsible or harmful to their health and safety. In the present case, the harmful thing was behaviour not shown in the ad or alluded to in any way. There should be nothing inherently dangerous in a woman going for a run but unfortunately, as recent cases had shown, there could be. That danger was not the fault of the woman running and Clearcast were concerned that if the complaints were Upheld, it could set a precedent for wider victim blaming, making it difficult to assess future ads.
They pointed out that they had, in the past, cleared ads that featured men running at night with headphones, which were not investigated. They were concerned that if the complaints were Upheld, it would make it difficult to find the balance between what behaviour shown was appropriate for women versus men.
Furthermore, they said the city environment featured in the ad was well lit and there were other people at various stages of the run.
The Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) explained that their panel did not believe ad (b) breached the Code and were concerned that by not showing women doing things like jogging at night, that could constitute a social harm. They believed that a breach of CAP Code rule 1.3 would imply that women were socially irresponsible to go running at night, and a breach of CAP Code rule 4.5 implied that the potential victim would be responsible for any harm that occurred to them if they did.
They said that advertising tended to be aspirational, and the panel felt that most women would aspire to live in a world where jogging in the streets after dark was safe, even if, in many places, they knew perfectly well it would not be safe. They also felt the woman featured in the ad was subverting unspoken gender norms in a positive way. It was considered more socially acceptable for a man to run late at night, rather than a woman. The tagline “I run on a different schedule. Mine” indicated that the woman in the ad wanted to, and did, run at night as that worked best for her. The panel felt that women should be able to run at night or at any time of the day. Normalising an approach of not showing women in situations where they were perceived as being potential victims did not protect women or keep them from harm.
The CAA believed the overall aspirational aspect of the ad was clear in the way the woman was seen meeting only friends, acquaintances and unaggressive strangers on her city run and in the way the watch offered her the opportunity to do that at any time of day. Many women worked long hours/nights or shift work and might only be able to run at night or very early in the morning, when it was still dark. However, they pointed out that when it was not dark, it did not prevent a woman from being harmed and they reflected on those recent high-profile cases where women were fatally attacked during daylight hours or in well-lit, busy places.
They said if the ad was ruled to be irresponsible on the grounds that the action portrayed would encourage an unsafe practice, that could be taken as akin to the police saying that women should not venture into town centres after dark. That attitude was, understandably, castigated as victim blaming. Ideally the authorities should render the streets safe to jog in after dark. If advertising depicting a woman running at night became socially unacceptable it begged the question of what else might constitute a socially dangerous situation for a woman. Removing women from certain spaces would not stop attacks on women from happening, but could, in their view, create dangerous precedent that women should not be in certain spaces or behave in certain ways for ‘their own safety’. Such an argument was rejected by many as sexist in the extreme.
The ASA acknowledged the sensitivities surrounding the recent high-profile cases involving women being fatally attacked whilst out jogging or out alone at night.
We recognised that some care would need to be taken when going for a run alone in the middle of the night, particularly for women, and we considered that people would be likely to realise that by doing so, they could be placed in a vulnerable position. We noted that the woman shown in the ads appeared alert and aware of her surroundings, and was seen running in well-lit, main streets where other people were present. We considered, therefore, that the woman was not shown behaving recklessly or obviously placing herself in danger.
We considered that running alone at night, of itself, was not likely to result in harm or injury. Whilst we acknowledged that an attack could happen, that was outside of a person’s control and it could also happen in other, everyday scenarios and at all times of the day or night.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ads did not encourage an unsafe practice and were not irresponsible.
We investigated ad (a) 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 4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
We investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility) and 4.5 4.5 Marketing communications, especially those addressed to or depicting a child, must not condone or encourage an unsafe practice (see Section 5: Children). (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.