Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A poster for a gentlemen's club showed an image of a woman wearing a bra lying on her back, looking towards the camera. With her right hand she was playing with her hair; the left side of her body was obscured by shadow.
The complainant, who stated that the poster had been placed within 100 m of a nursery and directly opposite a youth hostel, challenged whether the ad:
1. was offensive, sexist and degrading to women; and
2. was irresponsible, because it appeared where it could be seen by children.
1. & 2. Starwhite Ltd, t/a The Lodge Gentleman's Club (The Lodge) stated that they did not wish to offend anyone, but felt that the image was not of an offensive nature and that the text was innocuous. They said the poster was located almost opposite a youth hostel, but not within 100 m of a nursery. They also said that before the poster had been put up, the ad had been submitted to the CAP Copy Advice team, who had advised that it was suitable.
Primesight Ltd, the site owner, said the imagery in the ad was in their opinion not overtly sexual and they had deemed it appropriate. They acknowledged that the poster was displayed within 25 m of a youth hostel, but said that was not a restricted location. They provided information about the youth hostel, including that the average age of hostel guests was 16–18 years. They said the poster was 350–400m away from the nursery and they could not find any record of other schools in that area.
1. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that advertising for gentlemen's clubs would often contain images of women, many of which were likely to be seen as at least mildly sexual because of the nature of the service promoted. However, the fact that a product was offensive to some people was not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. It was therefore necessary to consider the overall impression given by the ad.
We noted that the image showed a woman lying on her back, looking towards the camera. The complainant had described this as a sexually submissive position. Much of the woman's body was shrouded in darkness, but she was shown alone and did not look distressed or coerced in any way, and given that she was wearing a bra and most of the lower part of her body was not visible we considered that the image was only mildly sexual in nature. Whilst acknowledging that the ad would be distasteful to some, we did not consider that it would be generally seen as objectifying or being sexist or degrading to women, and concluded that it was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On that point, we investigated the ad 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), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted that the CAP Copy Advice team had viewed the ad before it appeared, and had advised that it should not be placed within 100 m of a school or places that children frequented. We considered that, given the sexually suggestive nature of the ad, that restriction was appropriate and would reduce the risk of its being seen by children. The complainant had believed that the poster was located within that distance of a nursery. However, we understood that the poster was in fact around 350 m away from the nursery school. We also understood that the youth hostel referred to by the complainant was generally used by those aged 16–18 years, who were not classed as children under the Code. Because the ad had been placed away from schools or businesses that provided children based services, we concluded that it was not irresponsible.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.