Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A video ad, for the "Lynx Manwasher Shower Tool", was shown on Gym TV and on YouTube:
The ad, which was in the style of a product presentation filmed with a live audience, featured two female characters: "Stephanie De Mornay" and "Amber James". Stephanie introduced Amber and asked, "What have you got for us today, Amber?" Amber responded, "Balls. Nobody wants to play with them when they're dirty. That's why you have to keep your balls clean. The problem is soap just isn't enough." She was shown unsuccessfully cleaning a football. Stephanie asked, "Well, how can guys clean their balls properly so they're more enjoyable to play with?" Amber replied, "Well finally there's a tool that can really get the job done. The Lynx Manwasher. Cleans your balls." She held up a bottle of Lynx shower gel and a 'Manwasher'. The audience, including a couple of men who held rugby balls, were shown clapping and cheering.
Amber then selected a male volunteer from the audience to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 'Manwasher', passing him two golf balls. She said, "Why don't we start with some small balls? ... With a soft side to lather and a rough side for scrubbing, this can make any ball sparkly clean. Just feel how smooth those balls are, Stephanie." She handed the clean balls to Stephanie, who responded, "Wow ... I could play with these balls all day." Amber said, "Why don't we see if the audience has any questions?" A male member of the audience stood up with a pair of tennis balls and said, "Can it clean these filthy balls?" Amber said, "Chuck those hairy balls down here ... The Lynx Manwasher cleans right through the furry surface." The audience clapped and cheered.
Another man, who was wearing cricket whites with a red stain on one thigh, held up two cricket balls and said, "My balls have rubbed against my trousers for hours." Amber responded, "The Lynx Manwasher can get both your balls equally clean." A third man, who was black, stood up and shouted, "What about my ball sack?" and raised a net of footballs. Amber replied, "Just flop it down here and let's get to work." Stephanie said, "There really is no size or shape that thing can't clean." The ad ended with Amber stating, "If you have dirty balls that need cleaning, visit the men's toiletry aisle at your local retailer." On-screen text, next to an image of a bottle of Lynx shower gel and a 'Manwasher', stated "CLEANS YOUR BALLS YouTube/The Lynx Effect".
1. Two complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and unsuitable for display where it might be viewed by children.
2. One complainant challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, because they believed the implication that the black character had bigger "balls" than the white characters played on racial stereotypes.
1. Unilever said men did not feel comfortable discussing their personal hygiene openly and therefore campaigns around men's hygiene and health resonated better when humour was used. They said the humour in the ad was based on the double entendre of the word "balls" which they acknowledged some people might consider inappropriate or offensive, but they considered it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. They said the double entendre was often used as a comedic device in British comedy and cited 'Round the Horn', the 'Carry On' films and 'Are You Being Served?' as examples. They said the latter programme had been shown on TV in the early evenings, when it might have been seen by children, and was now available on DVD with a '12' classification.
Unilever considered the innuendo in the ad was unlikely to be understood by children, because they would not be familiar with the slang meaning of the word "balls", and it was therefore unlikely to cause them moral harm. They said that was particularly the case because the ad was consistently presented in a way which was capable of completely innocent meaning. The presenters spoke with a deadpan delivery which did not betray that their statements had a double meaning, they were not portrayed in a sexual way and did not handle the balls in a sexually suggestive manner. Unilever considered there was no overtly sexual or provocative imagery in the ad.
Unilever said their target demographic for the product was men over 16 years of age, and the media schedule had been designed to reflect that. The ad only appeared on Gym TV on screens in gyms with memberships aged 18 and over, and in instances where gyms admitted younger members or families the ad was only shown in areas of the gym that were accessible to those over 18. They said the ad was shown for two weeks and achieved 5 million impressions against a gym-visiting audience.
They said that online, the ads were only served with content selected because of its popularity with men aged between 16 and 34. They said that in some online media, such as content delivered via the Xbox or by O2, the ad was not served to those under 18, although they considered the content of the ad did not require it to be 'gated'. They said the ad was viewed more than 1 million times online and via mobile sites, and had a positive rating of 89% on YouTube.
2. Unilever said the size and shape of the sports balls bore no relation to the actual size of human testicles and were used to generate an unrealistic and humorous effect. They considered that as a result the ad did not create the impression that the size of the sports balls were representative of the size of the testicles of the men in the audience who were holding the balls, or that the skin colour of the men was of any relevance in that context. They considered the ad did not play on racial stereotypes and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence on that basis.
1. & 2. Zoom Media, who broadcast Gym TV, said they had assumed CAP clearance had been sought and received by the advertiser, as was standard practice with all campaigns they carried. They said the campaign was carried by other media owners and was not unique to their environment. They added that the ad was broadcast only within the gym areas of their health club venues, which were only accessible to those over 16. They considered it was therefore extremely unlikely that it would have been viewed by a younger audience. Zoom confirmed they had received one complaint directly from a health club member in Manchester and as a result the ad was removed from that venue within 24 hours.
YouTube said they had reviewed the video and decided that it did not violate their Community Guideline or Advertising Policies. They said the ad was served through AdWords and it was a customer's responsibility to choose appropriate targeting of their ads, for which AdWords offered many different options. They said that it was the advertisers' responsibility to abide by applicable laws and regulations, including the CAP Code.
1. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that very young children would be unlikely to be aware of the slang meaning of the term "balls", but we considered that older children would be likely to know and understand that slang meaning, particularly in the context of an ad which discussed the use of a "Manwasher". Nonetheless, we noted the actions Unilever had taken to specifically target the ad to their target demographic of men aged between 16 and 34, and noted we had not received any complaints that the ad had been seen by children. We concluded the ad had been appropriately targeted and was not, therefore, irresponsible.
On this point, 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.
2. Not upheld
We noted Unilever's view that the ad did not create the impression that the size of the sports balls was representative of the size of the testicles of the men in the audience, or that the skin colour of the men was relevant. However, we considered that because the premise of the ad was based on the double entendre of the word "balls", viewers would draw connections between characteristics of the men and the balls they were holding for comedic effect. For example, at the beginning of the ad, when Amber referred to one man's golf balls as "small balls", his reaction was to look concerned and uncertain.
We noted the audience included only one black man, and we considered that by having him present the large net of footballs for cleaning in contrast to the smaller balls presented by the other men, the ad played on racial stereotypes. We considered it was therefore likely that some viewers would find the ad distasteful on that basis. However, we noted the ad had been targeted at men aged between 16 and 34 and we concluded that, on balance, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence amongst that audience.
On this point, 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.
No further action necessary.