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The latest ads and marketing campaigns to be sanctioned: June

Advertising Standards Authority rulings from June, including Rio Ferdinand, Chris Eubank Jr and ArrDee. This article will be added to as more cases are investigated.

Set up over 60 years ago and still independent of the Government and general marketing business, the Advertising Standards Authority investigates any complaint against marketing communications.

With a mission to ‘make every UK ad a responsible ad’, the ASA resolves tens of thousands of cases per year, and is an important stalwart in ensuring ‘misleading, harmful, offensive or irresponsible’ adverts are amended or removed.

JUNE 2023

UPHELD: ASA Ruling on Qatar Tourism. Never a stranger to headlines, former footballer turned pundit turned mouthpiece Rio Ferdinand fell foul of ASA rulings after posting an Instagram video promoting Qatar and including the needed #ad. No problemo then. Well, not quite. On smartphones, the hashtag was not visible requiring a click on the ‘more’ button. It was also not particularly clear on laptops and PCs. “Because the ad did not make clear upfront its commercial intent, we concluded it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, and therefore breached the Code,” concluded ASA.

NOT UPHELD: ASA Ruling on Hillside (UK Sports) ENC t/a bet365. Sports betting is a emotive subject at the best of times, but the rules are pretty clear – ads containing a betting company cannot be aimed at under-18s. Before a fight between Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Smith, the former featured in a promoted bet365 Tweet. Concerned that Eubank Jr was likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s, a challenge was launched by ASA. Good news for Eubank Jr! The ad was allowed to continue as “there was nothing in the way he was presented in the ad that would have strongly attracted the attention of under-18s or was likely to render him of strong appeal” despite his large TikTok and social media presence, and appearances on Celebrity Gogglebox. Bad news for Eubank Jr, he lost the subsequent fight…

UPHELD: ASA Ruling on Litty Liquor. An open and shut case for ASA as Brighton-based Litty Liquor launched their spiced rum named 4Realli along with local rapper ArrDee. Three Instagram posts saw ArrDee promoting the ‘crisp, clean Caribbean rum’ in a distillery and then a nightclub, finishing with the blurb: #GETLIT. Alas, ArrDee was under 25 at the time – strike one – and that particular phrase was found to “encourage excessive and irresponsible consumption of alcohol” – strike two.

MAY 2023

UPHELD: ASA ruling on Decido LLC t/a History All Day. Babies, who’d have them? Well most of us. But for general interest website, History All Day, a baby’s image prompted five individuals to complain that said image was offensive given it was used specifically to drive traffic. The ad appeared on Mumsnet, The Guardian and the Vinted app within two days, and it linked to an article named ’40 Beautiful Genetics Photos’, in which said picture of a baby with holoprosencephaly was not again displayed. “We considered the image bore no relevance to the content of the article,” concluded the ASA.

UPHEAD: ASA ruling on HQD Tech UK. Yet another ‘influencer’ getting into trouble, this time an ex Goggleboxer in George Baggs. Promoting a HQD WAVE disposable electronic cigarette on TikTok, George fell foul of complaints concerning encouraging unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes usage on social media and appearing – and being – under 25. Picked up by some major newspapers, the APA ruled that although HQD Tech produced a clear contract with Baggs, “they were jointly responsible for ensuring marketing activity conducted on George Baggs’ account promoting HQD Tech’s products was compliant with the Code.”

APRIL 2023

NOT UPHELD: ASA ruling on Ann Summers Ltd. Mary Whitehouse may have been proud of the 19 complaints levelled at the adverts for this famous lingerie brand over the Valentine period. Featuring Love Island’s Tasha Ghouri and five backing dancers, some (well 19) viewers of the dance routine featuring a variety of Ann Summers products considered it overly sexual and objectifying, and also harmful to children. ASA saw it slightly differently, accepting “as the ad was for women’s lingerie, it was understandable that it would feature models wearing lingerie” and “that the application of [the] scheduling restriction by Clearcast would limit the number of children likely to view the ad”.

UPHELD IN PART: ASA ruling on Lovehoney Group Ltd t/a Lovehoney. Sex is clearly on our mind after adult specialists Lovehoney fell foul of ASA for displaying a digital ad in full view of children with a ball gag ‘gag’. However, complaints of it being offensive were turned down. For those interested, the tag line was ‘Silence is golden, Harry’ alongside an image of the sex toy.

UPHELD: ASA ruling on Uber BV. Pay and benefits are a hot topic when it comes to ride-hailing companies, with Uber drivers adopting a strike formation in New York, Southampton, Bristol and Leicester in the past six months alone. And it is not just pay changes that irked three people in particular, who all complained about an Uber advert in the national press back in 2021. Claiming Uber drivers and Uber drivers alone were privy to a series of benefits, readers suggested that pension and holiday pay were actually required by law to all operators. Via a series of complicated back and forths, ASA concluded: “Uber made misleading and unsubstantiated claims about the staff benefits the company provided.”

March 2023

NOT UPHELD: ASA ruling on Phil McIntyre Live Ltd. Comedian Dawn French’s brand new stand-up tour got off to a rocky start as her provocatively titled work ‘Dawn French is a huge t**t’ was accused of causing widespread or serious offence by two complainants. However, due to the self-mocking nature of the headline, ASA decided not to uphold the objection as “most readers would likely be aware of who Dawn French was and her style of comedy, and that the use of the word would be understood by readers to be self-deprecating and tongue in cheek, and it was not, for example, used in a sexual context.”

UPHELD: ASA ruling on Neafs UK Ltd. E-cigarette company Neafs’ smokescreen about the age of their models didn’t get past the eagled-eyed CAP code (ASA’s rule book) as it was deemed their advert featuring two people puffing away on devices were too young. The code states ‘[e-cigarette models] must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25’, yet one particular gentleman was 24 at the time of publication, while another woman’s ‘smooth skin and loose hair’ and testimonial were more likely to be associated with a young person.

UPHELD: ASA ruling on Vir Health Ltd t/a Numan. When is a free blood test not a free blood test? When you have to pay for it upfront, of course. Men’s health company Numan were considered misleading in their website’s free blood test offer by omitting key material information. The claim ‘FREE if we don’t find anything’ ultimately proved Numan’s downfall, as ASA declared it was unclear how many people would be eligible, and that by purchasing said test, customers were also enrolled into a paid-for subscription.