Marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour. While violence is the most common cause of complaints under this rule, the ASA has investigated a range of issues including vandalism, dangerous driving and flashing.
In 2012 the ASA investigated a Greenpeace ad that promoted the painting of power station chimneys as a form of protest and requested donations to support the cause. The ASA considered that the ad encouraged and condoned defacing property, which would generally be viewed as anti-social, and would in some circumstances be illegal. It concluded that the ad was harmful and irresponsible and upheld the complaints (Greenpeace, 16 May 2012). Ads perceived to be encouraging vandalism are likely to breach the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code; however humorous and unrealistic approaches may be acceptable. In 2010 the ASA investigated an ad for football boots that showed the footballer Nicolas Anelka kicking a football in a room, surrounded by expensive-looking items that appeared to have been broken or knocked over. The complainant objected that the ad condoned anti-social behaviour, but the ASA, while acknowledging young readers were likely to view a famous footballer as a role model, considered the ad was light hearted and that the scenario of a footballer destroying his own possessions was clearly removed from reality and did not uphold the complaint (Puma AG, 18 August 2010).
Advertisers should be aware that showing inappropriate behaviour in ads directed at or likely to appeal to younger people is particularly likely to be problematic. In 2010 the ASA ruled that an ad for a fashion brand featuring a woman exposing her breasts to a security camera might be attractive to younger consumers and encourage behaviour that was anti-social or irresponsible (Diesel (London) Ltd, 30 June 2010). Advertisers should also be aware of the potential for nudity to cause offence– see Offence: Nudity.
In 2009 an ad for an electronics company showed a car’s dashboard with a TV screen in the centre of it. The ad stated “Watch Your TV On The Move – R.A.M. can convert your existing in-car screen to make it available for use on the road. This is disabled at the factory, but they have the expertise to professionally override this and make this feature available again for front seat passengers to watch.” The ASA noted that the Highway Code advised that hands-free equipment was likely to distract a driver’s attention from the road and ruled that the ad was irresponsible, likely to encourage unsafe driving practices and, in that context, behaviour that was anti-social and could potentially break the law (RAM Mobile Electronics Ltd, 28 October 2009). The Code has specific rules related to antisocial and irresponsible driving behaviour.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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