Seventeen interactive ads on video on demand (VOD), on You Tube and Facebook, and cinema screens for Lynx shower gel.
Eg VOD ads:
a. An ad showed five women with the voice-over referring to each one in turn as either party girl , high maintenance girl , brainy girl , flirty girl or sporty girl . The screen became static showing pictures of the
five women with their names next to them. Text stated WHAT'S YOUR TYPE? CLICK ON A GIRL TO SEE HER FILM. KEEP UP WITH LYNX SHOWER GELS .
b. Clicking on PARTY GIRL took the viewer through to a video ad showing a man and woman dancing in a domestic setting. The voice-over stated, If you're the kind of guy who finds himself still up at 7.30 am dancing in the smouldering wreckage of
his apartment, you're probably going out with a party girl. Keep going and she'll grant you access to her VIP area. Keep going with Lynx Fever. On-screen text stated KEEP YOUR PARTY GIRL HAPPY .
17 complainants saw the ads on various media
All 17 complainants considered the ads were sexist, objectified women and were demeaning to women, and challenged whether the ads were offensive.
Four of the complainants also challenged whether the ads were offensive, because they portrayed men as sexually obsessed, manipulative and devious.
Unilever said the cinema ads were given a U rating, with the exception of Party Girl which was given a PG rating. They said two of the VOD executions were given a post 7.30pm timing restriction which they said demonstrated the clearance
bodies believed the ads were suitable for viewing by a broad audience.
Unilever believed the ads had been prepared with a sense of responsibility and were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. They believed the number of complaints received (17) compared to the number of people who saw the ad - which was 10.4
million impressions across VOD and paid-for online space, and a combined audience of approximately 19 million people at the cinema - was very small. They believed that showed the ads had not caused serious or widespread offence.
Facebook reviewed the ads and were satisfied that they complied with their applications policy.
YouTube said none of the ads would have violated their advertising policies.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Not Upheld
1. Not Upheld
The ASA understood the ads' scenarios were based on the two ideas that people have certain types to whom they are attracted and that in the early stages of dating, everyone adapts their behaviour to some extent in order to impress their partner.
The women were identified as one of five types based on their interests and the viewers or cinema audience (whereby the cinema recorded which ad received the most cheers from the audience) could choose to see an ad based on the type of girl
in whom they were interested.
Complainants were concerned that the women appeared to be treated as sexual objects which could be chosen and their treatment in the ads was degrading. In the context of dating, we considered viewers were likely to see the ads as illustrating that
some people were attracted to others with particular traits, characteristics or interests; something with which we considered viewers would be familiar. While the idea of choosing a type may be distasteful, in the context of the ads the women were
unlikely to be seen as objects and therefore, we considered on that basis, the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ads were told from the man's perspective of the date and commented on the dynamic of the couple's relationship. However, the women were not depicted in a negative light and they were not shown in an overtly sexual manner. The ads referred to the
sexuality of the couple's relationship using innuendo to infer that if the men acted in a certain way they would be rewarded sexually. We recognised that the humour would not be to everyone's taste but we concluded the ads were unlikely to cause serious
or widespread offence.
2. Not Upheld
We understood the ads were intended to present an exaggerated view of dating from a male perspective during which the men adapted their behaviour to impress their girlfriends. Some complainants believed the ads portrayed men in a negative light showing
them to be sexually obsessed and behaving in a devious and manipulative way.
We noted the ads showed each of the men doing things they may not willingly choose to do in order to impress their girlfriends with the ultimate goal that they would be rewarded sexually. We considered their behaviour in that context would be seen by
some viewers as portraying men in a negative light. However, as mentioned above in point one, we considered that humour would not appeal to everyone and that some viewers may find it crass. Nonetheless, we considered the scenarios played out in the ads
were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to viewers.
On both points, we investigated the ads under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 4.1 (Harm and offence) and 30.3 (VOD appendix) but did not find them in breach.