Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
An ad, in the Evening Standard, for the musical The Book of Mormon featured the quote "SO F**KING GOOD IT MAKES ME ANGRY", which was attributed to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.
1. Two complainants challenged that the ad was offensive and unsuitable for publication in a widely available newspaper.
2. One complainant challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for children to see.
1. & 2. The UK Mission Ltd said the use of an expletive in the ad was intended to reflect the musical’s mix of escapist fantasy and dark, surreal humour. They said the Evening Standard had approved the use of the ad when it first appeared in September 2012, and they had not received any complaints about it, explaining that they intended to target an adult audience. They pointed out that the Evening Standard used expletive words in their editorial, providing a list of examples, and that Jon Stewart was known by adults for using bad language.
1. & 2. The Evening Standard said they had not received any complaints about the ad. They explained that the newspaper was not targeted at children and the relevant page did not feature any content that might have particular appeal to children. They said their under-15 readership was so small it was not recorded, while the number of readers aged 15 was 0.026% of the total readership. They pointed out that the ad appeared on page 13 of the newspaper, explaining that there were several articles about distressing news events in the preceding pages and that the newspaper often used explicit language throughout its editorial. They said that the ad was light-hearted and humorous in tone, representing the musical it was promoting, and the word was not used in a provocative or sexual manner, but reflected how much Jon Stewart enjoyed the show. They pointed out that the musical was a success, which they believed further demonstrated that the general public was unlikely to take offence to the explicit language. They said they did not think the ad was irresponsible or likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that “F**KING” was partly obscured by asterisks, but acknowledged that the intended meaning of the word was still clear. However, we considered, in the context of the ad, the word did not have a sexual meaning, but emphasised the extent to which Jon Stewart enjoyed the musical, while reflecting the adult content of the Book of Mormon and the language Jon Stewart used in his comedy. Therefore, we considered the word would be interpreted in a light-hearted context. We understood that the Evening Standard had a predominantly adult readership, and that the editorial sections reported on serious news events, while also regularly using explicit language. Therefore, we did not consider the ad would be offensive to those who were likely to see the ad. For those reasons, we concluded the ad was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
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 Evening Standard had a predominantly adult readership and referred to explicit language in its editorial section. We considered its content included news events about serious topics that would not be of particular interest to children. Therefore, we considered that the newspaper in which the ad was published was unlikely to appeal to children and concluded that its placement was not irresponsible.
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.