A poster for a taxi company, distributed to various venues around Southampton and Eastleigh, featured an image of a woman making a suggestive gesture. Text stated "IF I START TO LOOK SEXY BOOK A TAXI". Smaller text stated "Don't make bad decisions because you have had one too many! Don't drive under the influence, book a taxi with us".
Two complainants, who considered the ad was sexist and also portrayed the woman as unattractive because of her size, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
West Quay Cars (Southampton) Ltd said the poster was one of three that had been launched together as part of the same campaign and following the same style. One of the others had featured a man in place of the woman and the third showed both the man and the woman together. They commented that the ad delivered an important message about drink−driving in a light-hearted and humorous way and that, whilst they did not believe the ad to be sexist or discriminatory in any way and were sorry that it had been interpreted in that light, there would always be a risk that any image they used could be accused of causing some sort of offence.
West Quay Cars stated that, before launching the ad campaign, they had conducted a polling exercise on around 600 people to get their feedback on the ads. It was reported that only a very low percentage of those asked had raised any objection and the decision to proceed had been based on a view that the message not to drive whilst drunk was sufficiently important to merit the controversy the campaign might cause.
The ASA noted that the implied message of the ad was that the woman depicted would normally be considered to be unattractive and acknowledged that that was likely to be distasteful to some audiences. However, we considered that the emphasis of the image was on the unusual pose and styling of the woman featured, who was depicted wearing colourful and clashing clothes and large jewellery and accessories, and that the overall impression of the ad was that, owing to those factors, the particular, fictional, woman shown was not conventionally "sexy", rather than that her weight rendered her unattractive. We also considered that the light-hearted intent of the ad was clear and that it would not generally be understood as an objectification of women, either in its intent or its result. Because we were satisfied that it would not generally be perceived as sexist, or as discriminatory on weight-related issues, we concluded that the ad was unlikely 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.
No further action necessary.