Online novelty goods retailer Banter King has been spanked by the ad watchdog over a paid-for display ad that appeared on the Sky Sports app, promoting its range of mugs that featured foul-mouthed joke slogans, including “Cock Hungry Whore”, “Live Laugh Tosser” and “My Son Is A C**t He Gets It From His Father”.
The activity sparked a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence and that it was irresponsibly targeted, triggering an ASA investigation.
In response, Banter King insisted it had not intended to cause offence and said it would be stricter on how and where it placed ads in the future. The company had claimed to have disabled any products with potentially offensive aspects from appearing on ads, but did not explain what measures it had taken to target the ad.
Meanwhile, Sky said that it was not an ad it would normally allow on its platform, and that it had not been shown because of a proactive scheduling decision.
The company insisted it had tried to ensure the Sky Sports app only carried suitable advertising by utilising a strong block list and having rules in place across its ad server and third-party vendors, which were designed to prevent unsuitable or offensive ads from appearing.
Sky also claimed to carry out weekly manual checks on ads on its platforms, and removed inappropriate content when it became aware of it.
However, Sky explained that despite those controls, occasionally content that did not meet its standards could get through the filters, which had happened in this case. It explained that this could occur where ads came through under masked URLs, bypassing blocks, or where the ads were based on a user’s cookies, cache, or search history.
Sky added that after being made aware of the complaint it had blocked several URLs from Banter King, meaning that ads from those URLs would no longer be shown across its sites.
Sky also said it had not received any direct complaints about the Banter ad.
In its ruling, the ASA acknowledged Banter’s assurance that it had taken steps to prevent products with the potential to cause offence from appearing in ads in the future.
However, it insisted that words such as ‘c**t’ were so likely to offend, that they should not be used at all in marketing communications, even if they were relevant to the product, unless very carefully targeted to an audience that was unlikely to be offended by them.
It further considered that the words ‘cock’ and ‘whore’ were strong swear words that were also likely to cause serious offence to a general audience.
The Sky Sports app was rated as having content suitable for all ages, and the ASA considered it was likely to appeal to a broad audience. The advertiser provided no information on how it targeted its advertising, or if it used interest-based criteria when doing so.
The watchdog therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and had not been responsibly targeted and must not appear again in the form complained about.
The ASA also warned told Banter over future activity.
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