Safety


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Published
Feb 27th '24
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Unsafe practices

Marketing communications, especially those addressed to or depicting a child, must not condone or encourage an unsafe practice.

 

In 2019, the  Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint against a YouTube video for a BMX retailer, which featured a group of riders trespassing in a reservoir overflow system and performing stunts. They were shown riding around the rim of a deep drain funnel and in underground tunnels. The ASA considered there was a risk of serious injury or death in those scenes, and that the risks were trivialised because they were presented in a humorous way, while the overall the tone of the ad was rebellious, daring and reckless. The ruling concluded the ad condoned and encouraged unsafe practices and was socially irresponsible (Seventies Ltd, 9 January 2019).

 

The ASA also investigated a number of complaints about an Instagram post by influencer Jemma Lucy for a weight loss supplement in 2019. Because the audience were likely to be aware that Jemma Lucy was pregnant at the time of the post, the ASA considered that it encouraged the consumption of food supplements intended to aid weight loss during pregnancy. As dieting or attempting to lose weight are generally not recommended during pregnancy, the ASA concluded the ad irresponsibly encouraged an unsafe practice (The White Star Key Group in association with Jemma Lucy, 31 July 2019).

 

In contrast, ads that feature activities with the potential to be unsafe may be acceptable if they present the subjects taking reasonable precautions and not behaving recklessly. In 2022 a ruling for an ad portraying a woman jogging alone at night through city streets concluded it did not irresponsibly encourage an unsafe practice. The ASA considered the ad did not show the woman behaving recklessly or obviously placing herself in danger, and that whilst care should be taken, running alone at night of itself was not likely to result in harm or injury (Samsung Electronics (UK) Ltd, 20 July 2019).

 

Additionally, a complaint about an ad depicting mothers and pregnant women training for or doing sports such as surfing, boxing, football, running, and weight-lifting, was not upheld. The ASA considered the ad suggested that pregnant women could exercise safely if they did so with caution and were aware of their limits, which was in line with NHS guidance. As such the ASA ruled that the ad was unlikely to encourage practices prejudicial to health and safety (Nike (UK) Ltd, 2 June 2021).

 

Showing dangerous or unsafe practices could also be acceptable if an ad does not condone them or if most people are likely to understand that the situation depicted should not be imitated; humour can often help render such an approach acceptable. In 2006, the ASA considered complaints that a 118 118 ad showing a man injured on a mountain and asking the operator to put him through to the Air Ambulance service was irresponsible, because it implied that calling 118 118 was the correct way to contact the emergency services. The ASA acknowledged that the rescue story was humorous and was unlikely to be interpreted literally and concluded that the ad was not irresponsible (The Number UK Ltd t/a 118 118, 26 September 2007).

 

Alcohol and driving

Ad Rules refer to the dangers associated with drinking and driving. Marketing communications, including those which do not specifically advertise alcohol, must not encourage consumers to drink and drive. Rules on advertising alcohol also requires that marketing communications must not link alcohol with activities or locations in which drinking would be unsafe or unwise, including driving or the use of potentially dangerous machinery.

 

The ASA has ruled against ads that have linked alcohol with driving and encouraged unsafe behaviour. For example, an ad for a music track on Instagram featured a video of a woman handing filled shot glasses to people in a car, alongside the caption “When you ask your mate to pick you up from the bar and they ask you to bring them gifts” (DNBA Entertainment Ltd, 13 July 2022). The ASA also ruled against a user-generated tweet that had been reposted by a vodka brand, showing McDonald’s frozen slushies with miniature bottles of vodka, inside a car, with the caption “@McDonalds McCafé iced frozen drinks with @AuVodka […] *Drink Responsibly & don’t drink and drive* #SummerVibes” (Au Vodka Ltd, 26 July 2023).

 

Only in exceptional circumstances may marketing communications feature alcohol being drunk by anyone in their working environment. The ASA ruled against an ad for whisky which featured an image of a mechanic working on a car in a garage, with a partially full bottle of whisky in the foreground and the statement “Working hard or hardly working?”. The ASA considered the ad implied the mechanic had been drinking whilst working, and that it linked alcohol with both locations and activities in which drinking was unsafe (Ian Macleod Distilleries Ltd, 21 September 2022).

 

While rule 18.12 permits alcohol ads to feature sporting or physical activities, it requires that ads must not imply those activities are undertaken after the consumption of alcohol. In 2021, the ASA considered a complaint against social media and website ads for whisky which included the claim “a whisky tasting at 3500ft”. The ads featured pictures of mountaineers climbing in challenging terrain and snowy conditions in the Scottish Highlands, with some images including whisky bottles or whisky being poured. The complaint was upheld, because it linked alcohol with unsafe activities and locations (RR Whisky Ltd, 7 April 2021).

 

As well as not encouraging consumers to drink and drive, marketers should neither encourage motorists to drive irresponsibly or depict vehicles in dangerous or unwise situations. Additionally, they should not exaggerate the benefit of safety features or suggest features enable vehicles to be driven in complete safety. An ad for Jaguar  which showed a car reverse parking at a cliff edge was found to misleadingly represent the parking sensor feature, by suggesting it could detect an empty space such as a drop (Jaguar Land Rover Ltd, 4 May 2022).

 

Marketers should also not make speed or acceleration claims the predominant message of their marketing communications (Rule 19.4). In another Jaguar ruling in 2023, the ASA considered a Tweet which stated “Fashionably late is out of fashion. Because 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds can look like this”. The ad also showed a blurred moving car. The ASA considered the ad suggested that drivers could rapidly accelerate and travel at speed to ensure they were not late, and that speed and acceleration was therefore the main message of the communication (Jaguar Land Rover Ltd, 4 October 2023).

 

Children

Special care should be taken with marketing communications addressed to or depicting children or young people, or featuring dangerous activities or behaviours that could be emulated by children.

 

A ruling in 2022 was upheld as it featured children eating Dairylea triangles whilst hanging upside down from a goal in a park. The ASA considered the ad condoned and encouraged young children to eat whilst upside down, which was an unsafe practice where there was potentially a high risk of choking, that could be dangerous if emulated (Mondelez UK Ltd, 19 January 2022).

 

However, a TV ad showing a toddler lying in bright sunlight on a ring in a swimming pool was not found to breach of the Code for condoning a behaviour detrimental to children’s health. The scene was very brief and the ASA did not consider that viewers would interpret it to depict a child sunbathing, because a very young child would not usually engage in that activity (Greenbank Holidays Ltd, 10 April 2019).

 

Even if they are not addressed to children, marcoms that show dangerous practices capable of emulation should be restricted to media that will be seen only by adults. A complaint was upheld against a TV ad in which a woman suddenly ran over a zebra crossing through moving cars, exhibiting behaviour that was dangerous in the real world. The ASA considered that while adults would be able to distinguish between some fictional elements of the ad, children may not, so there was a danger that they could emulate the behaviour, and therefore the ad was irresponsible. Although the ad was for a rowing machine and was not addressed to children, to minimise the risk of children seeing it, the ad should have been given an ex-kids timing restriction (Hydrow Ltd, 18 May 2022).

 

Promotions and products

Promoters should ensure that their promotions, including product samples and adventurous activities, are safe, especially for children. The ASA has received complaints about medicines, sharp instruments and other gimmicks that could have caused harm, especially if children got hold of them.

 

Marketers should also ensure claims for products or devices do not encourage or condone an unsafe practice. An ad for a traffic monitoring app for drivers and cyclists, which suggested that any vehicle drivers using the app would be absolved of responsibility in the case of an accident or traffic incident with a cyclist, was found to condone an unsafe practice and to be misleading (Cycle Safety Technologies, 15 May 2019).

 

Additionally, an ad which claimed that a “full recline” buggy was “Ideal for newborns” was found to be irresponsible by unduly emphasising the buggy’s suitability for very young babies, when it did not offer a completely lie-flat environment (Maclaren UK Ltd, 28 March 2018).

 

Products that require users to wear protective equipment might need to depict that requirement in their ads. In 2007, a magazine ad for a hedge trimmer featured a woman cutting her hedge without wearing protective equipment. The ASA considered that, by featuring the woman without protective equipment, the ad suggested that it was safe to use the hedge trimmer in that way and concluded that the image in the ad could therefore encourage irresponsible use of the product (Farm & Garden Machinery Ltd, 29 November 2006). But complaints about a cinema ad for WKD showing men using a drill without wearing eye protection were not upheld on the grounds that no drilling into a surface took place in the ad and therefore showing the men without eye protection would not encourage unsafe practice (Beverage Brands (UK) Ltd, 30 May 2007).

 

Some products, for example radar detectors, are legal to sell but might be used in illegal acts such as irresponsible driving. Marketers can advertise radar detectors as a way of promoting safe driving but should avoid giving the impression that they can enable the driver to break the law without detection (Blackspot Interactive Ltd, 19 December 2007).

 

The London Fire Brigade has expressed concern about the use of candles in marketing communications that show them close to flammable furniture; marketers should take care not to encourage such use or to imply candles have, or will be, left unattended.

 

See ‘Social Responsibility’‘Types of claim: Safe’ and ‘Motoring’

 

Source:Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)

 

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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