A post on fitness company Team RH Fitness’s Facebook page, seen on 14 February 2023, featured an image of the top half of a man facing the camera wearing a shirt and jacket. The man held a pair of bare legs over his shoulders as though holding a person upside down, with their feet pointed towards the ceiling with text that stated “WINE, DINE, £6.99”. The number six and the first number nine were highlighted. The image was accompanied by a caption that stated, “Wine, dine, and £6.99 [three laughing emojis]”.
The ASA received five complaints.
The complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive, because it objectified women.
Team RH Fitness said they were disappointed to hear that members of the public were offended by the post and explained that it was not their intention to cause offence. They said that the post advertised the Team RH Fitness app, and all users entered into an agreement with Team RH Fitness confirming they were at least 18 years old before access to download the app was provided. They had not received any complaints about the post either directly or via Facebook.
Team RH Fitness said the ad was posted on Valentine's Day with the purpose of being humorous and to demonstrate what consumers could spend their money on when considering romantically related purchases to celebrate the day. They told us that they limited the visual display of sexual activity and used implied sexual activity, imagery, and wording. Furthermore, they believed that the ad was compliant with Facebook’s Community Standards. They explained that their Facebook audience is largely made up of women aged between 25 and 54 years old living in the UK and there were numerous comments left on the post from people who found the ad funny.
Team RH Fitness said they had no intention of re-using the content in the ad. They stated that they take their role in publishing content seriously and always endeavour to comply with media guidelines and the CAP Code. They apologised to the complainants for any offence caused.
Facebook acknowledged the complaints but made no further comment.
The ASA acknowledged that only users of 18 years and over were able to download the Team RH Fitness app. We further acknowledged that the ad was posted on Valentine’s Day and that comments left on the post indicated that some people had understood the intended humour. However, the image was likely to be recognised as portraying a sex act between a man and a woman, and the sexual nature of the image was compounded by the highlighted “69”.
The woman had her bare legs over the man’s shoulders and neither her torso nor face could be seen. We considered that the positioning of the woman in this way to be objectifying since her inclusion in the ad served only as a faceless object used for sexual purposes.
Because it included an objectified woman in a sexual position, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence.
The ad breached the CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.1 and 4.9 (Harm and Offence).
The ad must not appear again. We told Team RH Fitness to ensure they avoided causing serious or widespread offence in future marketing.