Online adverts placed by Scottish companies are to be trawled by automated bots to proactively seek out commercials which break censorship rules.
The automated technology is part of a new strategy to be unveiled next month by the Advertising Standards Authority, which will use the software to identify adverts and social media posts which could potentially be in breach of official
standards. They will then be assessed by humans and a decision made as to whether action should be taken.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker told Scotland on Sunday that Scottish companies and organisations were likely to be specifically targeted under the new, UK-wide strategy. Parker regurgitated the old trope that the innocent have nothing to fear
I don't think responsible Scottish companies have anything to fear -- on the contrary, they will welcome better online regulation.
We want to make more adverts responsible online than we have at the moment. We are looking at how we can responsibly automate something that would flag up things that we would then want humans to review. We want to be in a position by 2023 where
we are an organisation that is using this technology in a way that makes adverts more responsible.
It seems that Scotland was chosen as the Guinea-pig for the new system as ASA says that Scots historically don't complain much about adverts, although there was an upturn last year. Parker notes that the most complaints UK-wide come from
"better off, middle class people in London and the southeast of England".
Sweden's Advert Censor (RO) has criticized a Stockholm company for sexism after it used a popular meme alongside a recruitment advert.
The image, known by online communities as the Distracted Boyfriend Meme, is based on a stock photo of a man turning away from his appalled girlfriend to look at an attractive woman. Swedish ISP Bahnhof used the image alongside a jobs advert; in
their take on the meme, the boyfriend was turning away from your current workplace to stare at Bahnhof.
The censor claimed that the use of the meme was gender-discriminatory, both due to presenting women as interchangeable and sex objects and presenting a stereotypical picture of men seeing women as interchangeable. Saying that it seems a little
discriminatory to stereotype men as always seeing women as interchangeable.
The original posts shared to Bahnhof's Facebook and Instagram pages received hundreds of comments. Many of these criticized the alleged sexism of the image, and the advert was reported to the advert censor.
The New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA's) Complaints Board has found a TV commercial advertising new caramelised white chocolate biscuits was not racist.
The ruling comes after the board received a complaint that a TV advertisement for Griffins' Toffee Pops claiming offensive dialogue with racist overtones.
The commercial featured three milk chocolate and one white chocolate biscuits on a plate, with the white biscuit saying it was a luxurious caramelised biscuit when told its coating looked interesting by a fellow biscuit.
When a milk chocolate biscuit asks if it tastes delicious, former All Black Carlos Spencer bites into the white chocolate biscuit and says Mmm, that's delicious.
The complainant said the narrative of the commercial was racist. The colour of a biscuit character's face is called into question in terms of whether they might be as good to eat as the other characters, they wrote. It encourages racism and with
the animated style is likely to appeal to children. Horrible and hateful role modelling in a multicultural society.
The Complaints Board commented:
There was a minority on the board that said there was a judgemental tone in the advertisement, due to it singling out the white chocolate biscuit for looking different.
However, the board ultimately ruled the advertisement had not breached the Code of Ethics or Children and Young People's Advertising Code.
This current Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle ad is extremely inappropriate and vile, plus it is aired early in the evening when children are likely watching. It is so suggestive it's disgraceful. The commercial shows three women in tiny bikinis
standing behind small bushes strategically placed in front of their crotches. Two women then proceed to delicately trim these bushes with scissors. The third woman uses her new Schick razor on the bush. She trims it into the shape of a heart and
the other two women stand amazed. The advertisement gives the impression they are trimming and shaping their pubic area because of how the trees are placed. You do not have to imagine much to see the implication.
Schick, owned by Edgewell Personal Care Brands, LLC, needs to know it is not alright to air obscene commercials with highly offensive content, especially when children are likely watching. This is unacceptable!
A Tbilisi City Court has fined Georgian condom company AIISA and banned four of its condoms from the market for supposed unethical advertising. The condoms were said to have violated the morality and dignity of society.
The judge found the following imagery on the condom packaging unethical and offensive to the religious feelings of a particular group as well as national dignity:
Queen Tamar, a Medieval ruler of Georgia who has been sanctified by the Georgian Orthodox Church, with an inscription: Gate of Thrones in Tamar;
A left palm, with a condom on two fingers. The court considered this as representing the Blessing Right Hand by which the clergymen of the Orthodox Church depict the cross;
A photo of a panda with the text: Would Have a Wank but it's Epiphany . As the company itself explains, these are lyrics from a Georgian band's song;
Packaging that refers the 12th Century Battle of Didgori between King David the Builder and Seljuk Turk forces, which in Georgia is regarded as a historic turning point and respected both by the State and the Church.
The owner of AIISA company, Anania Gachechiladze, believes the court verdict contradicts freedom of expression and endangers the democratic state and society. She says she will appeal the court verdict and if the upper instance court upholds the
decision of Tbilisi City Court, she plans to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasburg. She said:
This is censorship and restriction of freedom of expression. I am not going to remove the production from sales until the case is considered by all instance courts.
The lawsuit against AIISA was filed by Tbilisi City Hall, after petitioning by the far-right and nationalist group, Georgian Idea, asking for an adequate reaction regarding the packaging of the condoms.
AIISA condoms also depict prints of various famous persons, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Stalin, Adam and Eve and many quotes from Georgia's famous poem, The Knight in the Panther's Skin , written in the era of
A web page on the website www.magalufevents.com, seen on 1 December 2018, promoting a Sunset Booze Cruise, included the text Sunset Booze Cruise 2018...Magaluf's biggest Award winning Booze Cruise is back...You'll see the mayhem we cause on
the Mediterranean is unrivalled anywhere on the planet!...with an UNLIMITED FREE bar for THREE hours you're onboard [sic]. We also include FREE shots of Sambuca, Apple Sourz, Skittle Vodka! We promise you will walk on the boat but we'll have you
crawling off!... Event Duration 3 hours BAR Unlimited FREE BAR. A table on the website indicated that a standard priced ticket gave access to the unlimited free bar and VIP tickets included an additional bottle of champagne per person. At the
bottom of the web page a collage of 18 photos were displayed as part of the image gallery for previous events. Images featured two females kissing, one female drinking from a spirits bottle and a man rubbing his face into a woman's chest.
The complainant challenged whether:
the ad irresponsibly promoted excessive consumption of alcohol;
those featured in the ad appeared to be under the age of 25; and
the ad linked alcohol with sexual success at the event.
Magaluf Events stated that they had been diligent in checking identification and that they had consent forms from those involved with any promotional work, including those featured on the web page, to state that they were over 25 years of age.
They explained that they would not be looking to change the images of those featured on their website because those featured were over the age of 25. They said that appearing to be over 25 was subjective and they worked on a factual basis.
They acknowledged that there were issues with elements of their content and images regarding the promotion of sexual activity and alcohol consumption and stated that they were willing to make amendments to their website.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The CAP Code required marketing communications to be socially responsible and contain nothing that was likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise, including encouraging excessive drinking.
Tickets to the event included an unlimited free bar for a three-hour duration, including unlimited shots of spirits such as vodka and Sambuca. In addition to this, a VIP ticket entitled the purchaser to a bottle of champagne per person as well as
access to a free bar at a pre party. We considered that the large amount of alcohol offered within the time frame specified, combined with the phrase we'll have you crawling off! and the gallery image of a woman shown to be drinking from a spirit
bottle, promoted excessive consumption of alcohol, which was further emphasised by the event title Sunset Booze Cruise and was therefore in breach of the Code.
The CAP Code required that people shown drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in a marketing communication must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age. While Magaluf Events stated that they had checked the identification of
those featured on the web page and confirmed that they were over 25, they had not provided any evidence to demonstrate this was the case. We considered that several people appeared to be under 25, including some who were shown to be drinking
alcohol. We further considered that although some individuals were not shown drinking alcohol, because they were selected from the image gallery to appear on the event page they still played a significant role in the ad. We therefore concluded
the ad was in breach of the Code.
We considered that images of a sexual nature were featured on the event page, such as images showing two people kissing and a man rubbing his face into a woman's chest. We also considered the images of attendees holding up signs with the text I'm
behaving badly on Sunset Booze Cruise, Single as F*** and I left my boyfriend back in England were sexually suggestive and implied that those attending the event would be sexually successful. We considered that the ad's emphasis on the large
quantities of alcohol offered and the inclusion of the images selected from the image gallery to promote the Booze Cruise event linked alcohol with sexual activity and therefore breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Magaluf Events to ensure that their future advertising was socially responsible, did not encourage excessive drinking or feature those who appeared to be under 25 years of age drinking
alcohol or playing a significant role, and did not link alcohol to sexual activity.
Since their ascendance in the 2000s, Google and Facebook have largely defined how ads and other corporate content would appear, where they would flow, and the metrics of online advertising success.
On Monday, one top advertiser, Unilever, went public with its criticism, calling social media little better than a swamp and threatening to pull ads from platforms that leave children unprotected, create social division, or promote anger or hate.
That comes a year after Procter & Gamble adjusted its own ad strategy, voicing similar concerns. ,
Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing and communications officer, said in a speech Monday to internet advertisers.
Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children -- parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us. This is a deep and systematic issue --
an issue of trust that fundamentally threatens to undermine the relationship between consumers and brands.
Jason Kint, chief executive of Digital Content Next, a trade group that represents many big entertainment and news organizations added:
The technology, it appears, is actually allowing bad actors to amplify misinformation and garbage while at the same time squeezing out the economics of the companies that are actually accountable to consumer trust.
Update: Center Parcs outraged at the Daily Mail for its advert placement
Center Parcs has announced it has stopped advertising in the Daily Mail. It took the decision after its advert appeared in an online article by columnist Richard Littlejohn that criticised diver Tom Daley and his husband David Lance Black, who
are expecting a child . Littlejohn claimed children benefit most from being raised by a man and a woman.
Center Parcs was responding to a complaint from a person who tweeted:
My son so wants me to book at your parks, but how can I do that if you support homophobia?
Center Parcs responded:
We take where we advertise very seriously and have a number of steps to prevent our advertising from appearing alongside inappropriate content. We felt this placement was completely unacceptable and therefore ceased advertising with the Daily
Mail with immediate effect.
Stockholm council is set to ban sexy outdoor advertising. Daniel Hellden, one of Stockholm's deputy mayors and a long-serving Green Party activist with a political and personal mission to:
Make sure women aren't made to feel uncomfortable by explicit or gender stereotyped advertising in public spaces. I know my daughters, they don't like it. They feel bad. We should not as a city be part of this sort of advertising. I have a
responsibility to the citizens of Stockholm to ban this.
Hellden notes that record immigration to the Swedish capital has fuelled a wider awareness of stereotyping and a need to avoid racist undertones in public spaces.
His efforts to stamp out discriminatory billboards, digital displays or information boards will come to a head later this month, when the City Council is expected to approve a ban on racist and sexist advertisements.
The censorship rules about what constitutes a sexist or racist advertisements will follow those set out by the country's very politically correct nationwide advertising censor, Reklamombudsmannen (RO). But whereas RO cannot issue sanctions to
companies in breach of the guidelines, Stockholm's council will be able to order them to take down offensive billboards within 24 hours.
Inevitably the move has supporters and critics. The Swedish Women's Lobby recently labelled Sweden the worst in the Nordics when it comes to gender images, due to being the only country in the region lacking legislation against sexism and
stereotyping in advertising.
But Stockholm's plans to try and step up efforts against discrimination have come under fire from The Association of Swedish Advertisers, which represents agencies and marketing professionals. Its chief executive, Anders Ericson, argues that
despite complaints from what he describes as a really strong group of feminists, Sweden is already doing a really terrific job in self-regulation. He fears a ban will increase red tape and curb freedom of expression.
A series of posts on Poundland's Twitter and Facebook page, promoting the #ElfBehavingBad campaign, seen in December 2017:
a. An ad, posted on 11 December, featured an image of a toy elf and a bottle of De-Icer placed in front of a car windscreen which featured a drawing of a pair of breasts. The caption stated, Oh Elf, we know it's nippy
outside but not that kind of nippy! #ElfBehavingBad.
b. An ad, posted on 12 December, featured an image of the toy elf in a sink filled with bubbles sitting with two female dolls, taking a selfie. The caption stated Rub-a-dub-dub, three in a tub. A night of 'Selfies and
c. An ad, posted on 13 December, featured a moving graphic of the toy elf with a toothbrush placed between its legs whilst motioning back and forth. The caption stated, That's one way to scratch that itch. That's not
Santa's toothbrush is it?!.
d. A tweet, posted on 15 December, featured an image of the toy elf holding a spherical shaped object and a Darth Vader toy holding a lightsaber. The caption stated, Buzz off Darth, my lightsaber is bigger than yours.
e. An ad, posted on 16 December, featured an image of the toy elf sitting on a toy donkey's back with the caption, Don't tell Rudolph I've found a new piece of ass.
f. An ad, posted on 18 December featured an image of the toy elf next to a drawing of a phallic-shaped tree with the caption, That's one very prickly Christmas tree.
g. An ad, posted on 19 December featured an image of the toy elf wearing a dark moustache holding an arrow that pointed towards it, which featured the text FREE moustache rides. The caption stated First come, first served.
h. An ad, posted on 20 December featured an image of a toy elf playing a game of cards with three unclothed dolls. The caption stated Joker, joker. I really want to poker.
i. An ad, posted on 21 December featured an image of the toy elf holding a tea bag between its legs with a female doll lying beneath it.
85 complainants challenged whether:
The ads were offensive for their depiction of toy characters and other items which had been displayed in a sexualised manner; and
The ads were unsuitable to be displayed in an untargeted medium where children could see them.Response
Poundland Ltd stated that their elf campaign was based on humour and double entendres.
They explained that while the nature of a double entendre was that they would not be understood by children. They also stated Twitter and Facebook had policies which prevented under-13s from creating accounts on their
websites and Poundland had never sought to encourage anyone other than adults to follow Poundland on these social networks.
They provided an appendix, which contained highlights of comments they had received in support of the campaign and referenced results from a poll conducted on Twitter where 82% of a sample audience containing over 12,000
responders supported the campaign. The results were almost equally split between men and women. They provided information on the volume of interactions they had during the campaign, which included 33 million impressions in total, 4 million
engagements -- including reactions, comments, retweets, shares and replies -- as well as 43,000 new followers with the most significant peak on the 21 December, when the campaign went viral. They stated a large number of people found the campaign
to be humorous, engaging, and in line with what it meant to be British.
They stated they did not intend to offend anyone.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA understood the campaign was based on a toy elf, which resembled the popular children's Christmas tradition known as Elf on the Shelf, from the book of the same name. The elf was depicted in various scenarios where he
was shown to be behaving in a mischievous manner, with some images captioned with the hashtag #ElfBehavingBad. The overall campaign was based around puns and double entendres, which included sexual references.
Poundland's Facebook and Twitter pages were not age-gated and could therefore be seen by anyone. Although we did not consider they were likely to be of particular interest or appeal to children, we did not consider those who
were already following the pages would expect to see sexual or offensive content. We also noted the ads had been shared widely on social media and therefore would have been seen by a large number of people, including some children, who did not
actively follow Poundland on social media.
The image and caption in ad (a) depicting a pair of breasts drawn on a car windscreen and ad (f) which featured the elf beside a sketch of a penis-shaped tree were obvious sexual references that were shown to be drawn by the
toy elf. We considered ad (c)'s depiction of the elf thrusting a toothbrush between its legs to be interpreted as a sexual act. Ad (d)'s inclusion of the caption, my lightsaber is bigger than yours and the elf waving a vibrator were also obvious
references to sexual acts.
We considered ad (b), which depicted the elf and two unclothed female dolls placed in a sink filled with bubbles and the caption, A night of 'Selfies and chill, to be a play on the term Netflix and chill, which was a widely
known term implying sexual activity. We also noted ad (g), which featured an image of the toy elf wearing a dark moustache with the text FREE moustache rides, was an implied reference to oral sex. We considered ad (e), which featured the toy elf
placed on the toy donkey's back with the caption, Don't tell Rudolph I've found a new piece of ass, was a pun of a sexual nature.
We considered the depiction of a child's toy in relation to such sexual references and acts in a medium which could also be accessed by children was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence, therefore
breaching the Code.
We further noted ad (h), which featured a group of unclothed dolls playing what appeared to be strip poker captioned with the phrase I really want to poker, was a sexual reference aimed towards the female dolls. We also
considered ad (i), which featured the elf holding a tea bag between its legs with a female doll lying beneath it, was also a reference to a sexual act. Both ads (h) and (i) presented the female dolls in a manner which could be seen as demeaning
to women. We considered these ads were irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence by depicting a child's toy in relation to such sexual acts, therefore breaching the Code.
We therefore concluded the ads, which depicted the toy figures in a sexualised manner and appeared in an untargeted medium where they could be seen by children, were irresponsible and were likely to cause serious or
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Poundland Ltd to ensure that their advertising was presented with a sense of responsibility and did not cause serious or widespread offence.
Today we have unveiled the UK's top ten most complained about ads of 2017.
Among a total of 29,997 complaints received, today's Top 10 sets out the ads that provoked the greatest number of individual complaints. All the ads on 2017's list had one common thread -- they were all challenged on the grounds of offence.
This year, KFC's ad, featuring a chicken dancing to a rap soundtrack, received complaints that it was disrespectful to chickens and distressing for vegetarians, vegans and children and that it depicted a chicken who was heading for slaughter. We
ruled it was unlikely that the ad would cause distress or serious or widespread offence as there were no explicit references to animal slaughter.
2. Moneysupermarket.com Ltd 455 Complaints - Not upheld
This Moneysupermarket.com ad campaign also featured in the ASA's Top Ten list for 2015 and 2016. Like many of the ads in the same campaign, 2017's ad re-featured the two #epicsquads -- the strutters and the builders -- and a new female character.
Many found the ad to be offensive on the grounds that it was overtly sexual and possibly homophobic. We thought the character's movements would generally be seen as dance moves and not in a sexual context. We also thought most viewers would
recognise the ad's intended take on humour. We ruled it was unlikely to condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour.
3. Unilever UK Ltd (Dove) 391 Complaints - Not investigated; ads removed
Dove produced a series of ads that contained statistics and opinions about breastfeeding in public. The ads were featured across magazines, social media, and Dove's own website. Many criticised the language, such as "put them away", as
it might encourage criticism of breastfeeding. Some were also concerned that the ads might encourage neglecting crying babies. After listening to the public, Dove issued an apology and subsequently pulled the ads and amended their website.
4. Match.com International Ltd 293 Complaints - Not upheld
Match.com's ad, starring a lesbian couple kissing passionately, appears again in our list of most complained about ads. We received similar complaints last year, when it was number three on our list, about whether the ad was too sexually explicit
for children to see. We ruled then that the ad did not cross the line. Over the two years, the ad has attracted almost 1,200 complaints.
McDonald's produced a TV ad featuring a boy and his mother talking about his dead father. From the conversation, the boy became visibly upset as he found few similarities between him and the father that his mother described. Ultimately, he found
comfort when she told him that both he and his father loved McDonald's Filet-O-Fish burger. The ad attracted criticism that it was trivialising grief, was likely to cause distress to those who have experienced a close family death and was
distasteful to compare an emotive theme to a fast food promotion. The fast food chain issued an apology and pulled the ads.
6. RB UK Commercial Ltd (V.I.Poo) 207 complaints - Not upheld
A fictional Hollywood starlet shares her best kept secret on how to maintain good toilet etiquette -- by using the V.I.Poo spray, an air freshener. Many people found the discussion of going to the toilet unsavoury. We ruled that the ad was a
light-hearted way of introducing the product and we didn't consider its reference to the "devil's dumplings" likely to break our rules on offence.
7. DSG Retail Ltd (Currys PC World) 131 Complaints - Not upheld
This was a TV ad about spending Christmas in front of the TV. The Currys PC World ad showed a set of parents telling their children that they would like to celebrate Christmas "traditionally" this year by sitting by the fire, singing
carols and having long conversations. The mother then laughed at the visibly upset children and explained it was a joke. She led the family to the next room to show them a new Oleg TV that her employer, Currys PC World, had allowed her to bring
home and test. Complainants believed the ad was offensive because it promoted materialism and equated Christmas with watching TV instead of Christianity.
We thought the ad was light-hearted and was meant to be humorous. We understood the allusions to consumerism might be perceived to be in bad taste by some, but considered it was unlikely to cause serious offence. The ad did not ridicule or
denigrate Christians or Christianity, so was unlikely to offend on those grounds.
8. Telefonica Ltd (O2) 125 Complaints - Not upheld
O2's ad about free screen replacements stirred complaints when it featured two men kissing and breaking one of the couple's phone screens when he was pressed onto a table by the other man. Many felt the scene was too sexually explicit and
scheduled inappropriately at times when children were likely to be watching. Some also felt the portrayal of a same-sex relationship was offensive to their religious beliefs.
We noted that the scene in question was brief and did not contain any graphic or overly sexual imagery. We ruled that it did not require a scheduling restriction and the depiction of a gay couple would not cause serious or widespread offence.
9. Macmillan Cancer Support 116 Complaints - Not upheld
A TV ad for Macmillan Cancer Support included fast-moving scenes of a father talking to his daughter, receiving chemotherapy, vomiting in a sink, sitting slumped in a bath, and crying in a car before being comforted by a nurse. People complained
that the imagery was overly graphic and distressing to viewers. Though we understood some of the scenes, particularly the one in which the man vomited, were distressing to some viewers, we believed they served to illustrate the reality of living
with cancer. The storyline of the ad and the service that Macmillan Cancer Support was advertising provided context. We believed it addressed the serious nature of the illness appropriately. Furthermore, scheduling restrictions meant it wouldn't
be shown around children's programmes.
10. Mars Chocolate UK Ltd (Maltesers) 92 Complaints - Not upheld
And finally, Maltesers appears in ASA's top 10 list for a second year.
Many continued to find the featured woman, who described having a spasm during a romantic encounter with her boyfriend, to be offensive and overly sexual. Some also felt it was offensive to portray the woman, who was in a wheelchair, in this
The ad had already been given a post-9pm scheduling restriction, which we considered sufficient as most viewers are aware that advertising content after 9pm might include more adult themes. In instances when the ad was seen earlier in the day,
the ad was seen around adult-themed programmes, such as Made in Chelsea and The Inbetweeners , and was unlikely to be considered to have been inappropriately scheduled.
We found the women's conversation to be light-hearted and didn't think the allusion to the woman's romantic encounter would cause serious or widespread offence. On the matter of portraying the woman in a wheelchair in this manner, we believed the
ad was championing diversity and did not think that it denigrated or degraded those with disabilities.