An ad in the Bucks Free Press for an estate agent, featured an image of six women, from behind, wearing Whirlybird branded bikinis. Text stated "Would you like one of the ladies at Whirlybird Property to value your home? if so, call now and take advantage of our preferential rates for selling your property".
Two complainants, who believed the ads were sexist and objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
Whirlybird Property Ltd believed the ad was in line with the various promotions seen at the Motor GP and Grand Prix with glamorous ladies promoting a corporate brand. They provided examples of images which they believed demonstrated that women were commonly used in promotional events and advertising where the image was not directly related to the product and the ad used their physical features to draw attention to the product.
Bucks Free Press believed the image was in no way obscene or corruptive to potential readers and said similar sights could be witnessed on a normal beach holiday or on advertising hoardings. They said it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to its readers and therefore had no reason to refuse publication.
Whilst the ASA noted the bikinis worn by the six women featured in the ad were Whirlybird Property branded, we considered the use of the image was incongruous to the subject of property lettings. Although the image was not sexually explicit; we considered that, alongside the text "Would you like one of the ladies at Whirlybird to value your home?" it was likely to be seen as sexist and demeaning to women because it used their physical features to draw attention to the product. We therefore concluded that, in this context, the image was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
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).
The ad should not appear again in its current form.