Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A poster for Larry Flynt's Hustler Club, which was displayed on the side of a van driven around South London, featured a photograph of a naked woman lying on her side with her back to the camera, and two fully clothed men standing in front of her and looking at her. Text stated "THE BEST VIEW IN CROYDON".
The ASA received three complaints.
1. All of the complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive, sexist and degrading to women.
2. Two of the complainants, who reported seeing the ad in Wimbledon Village on a Saturday and on Clapham High Street and Putney Bridge on consecutive Sundays, challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for public display where it could be seen by children.
1. WDV Talent Agency-London Ltd t/a Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club stated they were aware of the constraints of the CAP Code and had discussed their requirements with their graphic designer when creating the ad. Those requirements included a clear prohibition against any photographic image which could be regarded as containing explicit inappropriate nudity; being offensive, salacious or degrading to women. They believed that the imagery was firmly within those guidelines as the nudity displayed was minimal. The ad did not show any breasts or genitalia, and was not sexually suggestive. They said the demeanour of the men was natural and relaxed, and the expressions on their faces simply suggested appreciation and enjoyment. Regardless of that, in light of the complaints, they did not intend to use the ad again in future.
2. Larry Flynt said the tag line “the best view in Croydon” was selected so that neither the content of the photograph nor the venue advertised would be obvious to children. The ad was targeted at industrial and business parks where adults were the predominant audience. Even though they believed the ad was inoffensive, they tried to minimise the risk of children viewing it. Therefore, the van driver was instructed to be area sensitive and not to park near schools, nurseries, religious venues or other areas where children or other persons who might be particularly sensitive to the material might be gathering. While they acknowledged it was impossible to travel without a risk of children being in the area, they believed the steps they had taken minimised that risk to an acceptable level.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA considered that, while the ad only showed the back of the woman, it was clear that she was lying on her side, naked, facing the two men who stood in front of her. While we acknowledged that the ad did not include any explicit nudity and the woman’s pose was not overtly sexual, it was clear from the men’s lines of sight that one was staring at her breasts, while the other was staring at her crotch, and we considered that the overall impression of the image was that it was sexual in tone. When accompanied with the claim “The best view in Croydon”, we considered the image presented the woman merely as a sexual object to be enjoyed at the whim of the club’s clientele. While we acknowledged that the image was relevant to the nature of the club being advertised, we considered that it was likely to be seen as objectifying, and therefore demeaning to, women. Because of that, we concluded that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and was unsuitable for public display, particularly where it could be seen by children.
The ad breached 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).
We welcomed the fact that Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club did not intend to use the ad again. However, we told them to ensure their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence in future, and that they were targeted appropriately.