In the first complaint, a group of consumers objected to a billboard featuring a scantily clad woman wearing a red Santa Claus cap with the words “O’ Come all yea faithful” on the basis that it is offensive to Christians as it uses a song celebrating the birth of Jesus (and accordingly has religious connotations) to promote an adult entertainment venue.
The relevant clause of the Code of Advertising Practice, Clause 1 of Section II, requires that advertising may not cause serious, widespread or sectoral offence. That an advert is offensive to some, however, does not in itself qualify the advertisement as offensive in terms of the Code. The Directorate will consider context, medium, likely audience and degree of social concern. The advertisement is to be considered through the eyes of a hypothetical reasonable person who is not over-sensitive or hypercritical.
In its response, Teazers submitted that the song is not of a Christian origin but refers to the birth of Prince James II in the 18th century.
The Directorate found that the advertisement does not comment on any aspect of Christianity or religion and does not attack or belittle it. It found further that just because the advertisement features a traditionally Christian song does not imply that it belittles a basic principle of Christianity. The complaint was dismissed.
In the second complaint, a consumer lodged a complaint against a billboard featuring a woman’s naked torso accompanied by the wording “Abreast of the rest! Still the best”.
The complaint was that the advertisement was indecent and explicit for children, the relevant clauses of Section II of the Code being 1 (offensive advertising) and 14 (which requires that advertising should not contain matter which may harm children mentally, morally, emotionally or physically).
The ASA found that the image on the billboard was “not overtly sexual and would not be understood to be sexual by a child” and accordingly would not be harmful to children. It was found that only an adult familiar with the services offered would read into the advertisement sexual innuendo. It was found not to be in contravention of Clause 14 and could not, therefore be regarded as offensive and the complaint was dismissed.
While it is debatable whether the advertisement in question is harmful to children, I must disagree on the Directorate’s finding that it would not be understood by a child to be sexual. Perhaps for very young children this is true, but I think that older children are certainly savvy enough to have at least a limited understanding of the sexual innuendo.
I wonder if Lolly knows that “abreast” means “equal to”, “alongside of” or “up to date with” and that his advertisement is not quite as laudatory as he probably intended. For an advertiser who relies on witty pay-off lines, it is disappointing that perhaps this one was not properly thought out.