An online behavioural ad for Shirtbox, seen on Mailonline.com on 5 November 2017, featured a pale blue T-shirt with an image of a cartoon silhouette of a couple engaging in sexual activity with arrows identifying the male figure as “you” and the female figure as “your mum”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and demeaning to women.
TEDIM International t/a Shirtbox stated that their targeted product advertising campaigns were heavily vetted and any product that might have been considered to be of an adult nature or deemed offensive was excluded from all targeted product-specific advertising. They explained that on the occasion it was seen, the advertisement was a cookie based automated behavioural re-targeting advertisement. That meant that the ad would have been displayed if the consumer previously viewed the products directly on their website or previously added the products to their cart on their website or if the consumer reached the checkout phase with intent to purchase the product.
The Mailonline stated that their readers would not consider the ad to be offensive and that they had received no further complaints about it.
The ASA understood that the ad was targeted to consumers based on them previously viewing the product directly on the Shirtbox website, and that Shirtbox took steps to ensure that any products of an adult nature would not appear in targeted product-specific advertising.
We considered that if the ad had not been targeted to those who had previously viewed the product on Shirtbox’s website, the image would have been likely to cause offence to some visitors to the Mailonline website. However, we considered that the advertiser took sufficient steps to ensure that the ad was targeted suitably, because those who had viewed the product previously on Shirtbox’s website were unlikely to find the ad offensive. We therefore concluded that the ad was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) and
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.
No further action necessary.