Background

Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.

Ad description

Two TV ads and a cinema ad for online music service Spotify were seen between 28 April and 13 May 2017.

a. One TV ad showed a family at a dinner table. While the son was singing along to a song, the mother said (to camera) "What he doesn't know is that he was made to this song. In this room. On this table".

b. The second TV ad showed a teenage girl outside a closed bedroom door. Music could be heard from within. The girl said "Yep. Bieber's 'Love Yourself'. I think we all know what's going on in there".

c. The cinema ad was identical to ad (a).

Issue

The ASA received 81 complaints, raising one or more of the following issues:

1. 64 complainants, most of whom saw the ad during Britain's Got Talent and Take Me Out on Saturday 29 April 2017, challenged whether ad (a) was offensive and unsuitable to be broadcast during programmes watched by children, because of the sexual reference it contained.

2. 18 complainants, who saw the ad during Britain's Got Talent on Saturday 6 May 2017, challenged whether ad (b) was offensive and unsuitable to be broadcast during a programme watched by children, because they believed it implied the person in the bedroom was masturbating.

3. Two complainants, who saw ad (c) in the cinema before the film Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 April 2017, challenged whether the ad was offensive and unsuitable to be shown before a film whose audience was likely to include children.

Response

1. and 2. Spotify Ltd believed that each ad described the respective situations using mild and subtle sexual innuendo in a discreet and tongue-in-cheek manner. They said neither ad featured any nudity, any overt sexual reference or any depiction of the experience being referred to. They believed they were unlikely to be noticed or understood by children. They said their request to purchase airtime during Britain's Got Talent and Take Me Out was reviewed and approved by Clearcast on the basis that neither programme was commissioned for, nor principally targeted at, children. They believed the viewing profile of the programmes bore out that they did not appeal to children.

Clearcast said the ads were approved with ex-kids restrictions, which meant they must not be shown in or around programmes made for, specifically targeted at, or likely to be of particular appeal to children. They believed the content was sufficiently mild not to need any further restriction.

ITV Broadcasting Ltd said the audience indices for Britain's Got Talent and Take Me Out showed that the proportion of child viewers for both programmes was significantly below the threshold at which they would be considered to be appealing particularly to children. They considered the ads were mischievous, mildly suggestive, humorous and tongue-in-cheek but they did not feature any overt sexual reference or depiction, were not capable of causing physical, mental, moral or social harm to under 18s and were not offensive. They said the three main factors ITV took into account when scheduling the ads were the proportion of the audience that were children; the content of the ad and the programme and editorial context. They said Britain's Got Talent often included mildly profane, flippant and tongue-in-cheek content and behaviour. They said the programme had a wide audience profile and that children who viewed the show were not unaccompanied - they saw the programme with their parents. They said Take Me Out used plays on words, suggestive compliments, innuendo and irreverent humour. Given the context of programme content and the make up of the viewing audience, they considered the ads had not been scheduled unsuitably.

3. Spotify said the cinema ad was not addressed to or directly targeted at children. They believed that at worst the ad might cause mild awkwardness or embarrassment for children or their parents but that it was not likely to result in the physical, mental or moral harm of any children viewing it and had not been irresponsibly placed. They believed the innuendo in the ad was subtle and unlikely to be noticed or understood by children. They said that, as seen before a 12A rated film, children under 12 would be in the audience only if they were accompanied by an adult.

The Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) said they considered the suggestive humour of the ad required only a minor restriction as its full meaning would not be understood by younger viewers who were not already aware of what it referred to. They considered it was appropriate to keep sexually risqué humour away from very young children but noted that the minors in the audience of a 12A film were likely to be older and have some knowledge of the facts of life. They accepted that that could give rise to a minor degree of embarrassment between some parents and their children, but that that did not signify that the ad had caused serious or widespread offence.

Assessment

1. and 2. Not upheld

The ASA acknowledged that both ads contained implied sexual references. We considered, however, that the references were not explicit and were unlikely to be understood by young children. We noted that Clearcast had given the ads a scheduling restriction to prevent them being broadcast in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children. The audience data bore out that, while the programmes had general appeal, they did not have particular appeal to children. We therefore concluded that the ads were not offensive or unsuitable to be broadcast in breaks in those programmes at those times.

On points 1. and 2. we investigated ads (a) and (b) 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) and  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.  (Scheduling) but did not find them in breach.

3. Not upheld

We acknowledged that the ad contained an implied sexual reference. We considered, however, that the reference was not explicit and was unlikely to be understood by young children. We acknowledged that the film would have children in the audience, but we noted that those children were likely to be older or accompanied. Given the mild nature of the sexual reference, we therefore concluded that the ad was not offensive or unsuitable to be shown in that context.

On this point we investigated ad (c) 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.  (Responsible advertising) and  5.1 5.1 Marketing communications addressed to, targeted directly at or featuring children must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm:  (Children) but did not find it in breach.

Action

No further action necessary.

BCAP Code

32.1     4.1     4.2    

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     5.1    


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