A poster for Tunnocks Tea Cakes, seen on 6 November 2017, showed an image of a female tennis player holding a tea cake in place of a tennis ball at the top of her thigh, with her skirt raised at the hip. Text underneath the image of the women stated “Where do you keep yours?” with text underneath the product image stating “Serve up a treat.”
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible because they believed it was sexist and objectified women.
Thomas Tunnock Ltd t/a Tunnocks Tea Cakes stated the ad appeared on a poster site adjacent to the SEC Hydro Arena in Glasgow to coincide with a charity tennis match and was created with a tennis audience in mind. They explained that the creative execution and placement of the teacakes were a substitute to the normal placement of tennis balls and that they were not placed in an abnormal position. They stated they did not intend to offend anyone.
The Forrest Group confirmed they had not received any complaints about the ad.
The ASA noted the ad depicted a woman lifting her tennis skirt while holding a tea cake beside her hip, in place of where a tennis ball would usually be held, with her bare thigh exposed and her underwear clearly visible. While we acknowledged the ad was placed opposite an arena hosting a tennis match, we considered it nevertheless bore no relevance to the advertised product.
We considered the phrase “serve up a treat” would be understood to be a double entendre, implying the woman featured in the ad was the “treat”, and considered this was likely to be viewed as demeaning towards women. We considered that although the image was only mildly sexual in nature, when combined with the phrase “serve up a treat” it had the effect of objectifying women by using a woman’s physical features to draw attention to the ad.
In light of those factors, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some consumers and was socially irresponsible.
The ad breached 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).
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Thomas Tunnock Ltd to ensure their advertising was socially responsible and did not cause serious offence by objectifying women.