Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated all of which were Not upheld.
A TV ad, for Pot Noodle, showed a male actor with visible stubble wearing various outfits. The character was shown in a tracksuit, two different dresses, a swim suit and tutu outfit. In the latter two outfits, the character was shown with his legs wide apart. The character said, "Ever since I was little I've always dreamed of living an easy life. So, I married a footballer. I've been a WAG for 2 years now. I'm a real lady of leisure. I've even got my own fragrance. The scent's inspired by my greatest love, it's hot like a fever, spicy like chilli, divine like chicken. Piri Piri by Brian."
Two complainants challenged whether the ad:
1. was offensive; and
2. breached the Code, because it condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment towards transsexual people.
1. Unilever UK Ltd (Unilever) believed the ad used a cheeky and humorous tone that was commonly used in Pot Noodle advertising. They said the ad depicted a man dressed up as a woman to add a humorous twist to the narrative and to caricature the 'WAG' lifestyle. They said the ad was not intended to reference real life or transsexual people. They said the video/photo shoot for the Piri Piri by Brian perfume replicated the highly stylised nature of perfume ads. They believed the presentation of Brian in the costume of an angel, which was often associated with women's perfume, was a humorous twist. They said the fact that the characte, Brian, was shown with his legs wider apart in some scenes was a reference to fashion shots and music videos and replicated poses of well-known female artists.
Clearcast believed the character Brian, did not reflect or portray a trans individual; rather they believed the ad made clear that Brian was a self-identifying man. They said the ad intended to use the juxtaposition of the comedic pantomime dame to caricature and parody the absurd and lavish lifestyles of a WAG.
2. Unilever said the character, Brian, was shown in situations that were generally regarded as enjoyable. They also said the character was not in a situation where they were the victim of discriminatory behaviour or treatment. They therefore believed the ad did not condone or encourage harmful or discriminatory behaviour towards transsexual people.
Clearcast believed the ad did not condone or encourage harmful or discriminatory behaviour towards transsexual people because the character Brian was not a transsexual individual. They also said the voice-over did not contain content that incited negative behaviour, nor did the ad invite the audience to speculate as to the character's gender identity.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA noted the ad identified the character as Brian and depicted Brian with masculine features, including visible stubble, a masculine voice and body type. In that context, we considered the ad made clear that Brian was a self-identifying man who sought an easy life that could be achieved through the lifestyle of a WAG. As such, we considered viewers were likely to interpret the portrayal as a light-hearted mockery of WAG culture rather than transsexual people. Whilst we acknowledged that some may find the ad distasteful, we considered it was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence, or condone and encourage harmful and discriminatory behaviour and treatment towards transsexual people.
On that basis, we concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. and 4.8 4.8 Advertisements must not condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour or treatment. Advertisements must not prejudice respect for human dignity. (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.