A Facebook post for Superdry, dated 28 October 2017, included text which stated, “This is the jacket that gives you a different view ft. Nightscape”. The post included a short video of the free runner Nightscape, also known as Harry Gallagher, walking outdoors, along a high-up exposed steel support beam at night, high above a cityscape.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible and encouraged an unsafe practice.
Supergroup Internet Ltd t/a Superdry said that Harry Gallagher, also known as Nightscape, was a professional parkour and free running athlete with a social media following. They did not consider that the ad was addressed to, or depicted children, as Nightscape was 20 years old and Superdry made apparel and accessories for adults; they did not have a children’s range and their advertising was not targeted at children.
They said their decision to publish the ad centred firstly on the distinction between ‘condoning or encouraging’ an activity or ‘showing’ it, and secondly on whether people would understand that the situation depicted should not be copied. They said the ad showed an activity, but believed there was nothing in the ad which actively encouraged viewers to undertake copycat behaviour. They added that the Superdry product being advertised was not central or necessary to the action. They were not advertising or selling a product which the consumer was then likely to utilise to undertake the activity depicted.
They said the activity in the ad was an extreme sport, the location of which was extremely unusual, and was one which most people would find difficult to access. They said people viewing the ad would understand that walking along a steel beam at great height was not a safe activity for anyone, but was being undertaken by a highly trained and skilled athlete, and should not be emulated.
Their view was that the mere depiction of an athlete undertaking a risk based activity did not encourage the activity and should not be seen as socially irresponsible. They believed free running and other urban activities should be seen as being similar to more traditional outdoor activities and should be assessed accordingly under the Code. They believed walking on an exposed edge of a building was no different from cycling along an exposed ridge, or climbing without ropes. Many of these activities were undertaken by highly skilled athletes, and all were portrayed by brands keen to be associated with elite athletes. They believed free running should be judged in the same way as the depiction of other extreme sports in advertising.
The ASA understood that the activity featured in the ad was free running and that this was regarded as an extreme urban/sport activity. In addition, we considered that the act of walking on an exposed beam, high above a cityscape, was a particularly extreme example of free running. We considered that the ad did not clearly present the activity as being part of a free running session, or highlight that this was an activity which should only be undertaken by such skilled and trained athletes, and that it was being undertaken by such a skilled, experienced and established athlete in this case.
We considered the short stylised clip of the activity, as well as the text “This is the jacket that gives you a different view” presented the activity in a positive light. While we acknowledged that the ad did not actively state that consumers should undertake the activity, the implication of the text in particular was that it was a fun and daring thing to do. We considered such elements in this context presented free running in a positive light and that the overall impression of the ad was that the advertisers normalised and condoned the activity, and in particular, the extreme act of free running on a high and exposed beam, which we considered was an unsafe practice.
We noted the view that Superdry made apparel and accessories for adults, they did not have a children’s range and that their advertising was not targeted at children. However, we considered that their brand, the activity and, for those who had identified him, the influencer chosen to feature in the ad were all associated with youth culture. While we acknowledged the lack of ease of access to such a location meant it would not be an easy activity to emulate, we considered it was likely to appeal to some young adults as an act of dexterity and daring.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was harmful and irresponsible.
The ad breached 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 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).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Superdry to ensure their advertising did not condone or encourage an unsafe practice.