A taxi firm has been given the green light to run a poster campaign targeting drunk people, despite complaints the ad – which used a classic “beer goggles” image of what many would perceive as a “minger” – was offensive and sexist.
The ad ran in various venues around Southampton and Eastleigh, alongside text which stated: “If I start to look sexy book a taxi.” Smaller text stated “Don’t make bad decisions because you have had one too many! Don’t drive under the influence, book a taxi with us.”
But two complainants were decidedly miffed. They claimed the ad was sexist and portrayed the woman as unattractive because of her size, and challenged whether it was offensive.
However, in its defence, West Quay Cars (Southampton) could see nothing wrong with the campaign, adding that the execution was one of three ads which followed the same style.
A second ad had featured a man in place of the woman and the third showed both the man and the woman together. The firm maintained that the ad delivered an important message about drink-driving in a light-hearted and humorous way and that, while it did not believe the ad to be sexist or discriminatory in any way and were sorry that it had been interpreted in that light, there would always be a risk that any image they used could be accused of causing some sort of offence.
The firm even conducted a poll of around 600 people to get their feedback on the ads. It was reported that only a very low percentage of those asked had raised any objection and the decision to proceed had been based on a view that the message not to drive while drunk was sufficiently important to merit the controversy the campaign might cause.
The ASA noted that the implied message of the ad was that the woman depicted would normally be considered to be unattractive and acknowledged that that was likely to be distasteful to some audiences.
However, it considered that the emphasis of the image was on the unusual pose and styling of the woman featured, who was depicted wearing colourful and clashing clothes and large jewellery and accessories, and that the overall impression of the ad was that, owing to those factors, the particular, fictional, woman shown was not conventionally “sexy”, rather than that her weight rendered her unattractive.
It also considered that the light-hearted intent of the ad was clear and that it would not generally be understood as an objectification of women, either in its intent or its result.
Clearing the ad, the ASA ruled: “We were satisfied that it would not generally be perceived as sexist, or as discriminatory on weight-related issues, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”
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