A Newcastle upon Tyne carpet retailer has been nailed by the ad watchdog after an ad which the firm insisted was humorous – despite showing a seemingly unconscious woman lying on her back, legs akimbo – failed to raise a single laugh at the regulator.
Carpet Studio, which on its website claims to be “the leading retailer of carpets & flooring in Newcastle since 2000”, ran the full page ad on the front of local title Right Up Your Street.
It featured large text stating “Happy New Year” with the word “Year” crossed out and replaced with “Floor!”. It showed an image of a woman, from the shoulders down, lying on her back on a tiled floor. The model, whose bare legs were parted and feet were splayed outwards, wore high heeled shoes and an above knee-length dress. An empty wine glass lay on its side between the woman and her outstretched arm, and balloons lay behind her on the floor.
However, two readers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority and challenged whether the image of the woman was socially irresponsible because it encouraged excessive drinking.
They also believed that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence because it was inappropriate and demeaning, as the woman’s head was not visible and the image bore no relation to the product being advertised.
In its defence, Carpet Studio bosses said the ad was not intended to cause any offence and it was instead a light hearted New Year message. They did not agree that the image of the woman in the ad was inappropriate and demeaning. They also said that while they did not condone excessive drinking, there was only one empty glass present in the image which was a stock image selected online. They added that at that time of year many people let their hair down and revelled in the festivities, often overindulging and drinking excessively, and as a result they may require new flooring in their homes due to damages caused.
In its ruling, the ASA acknowledged that the image of the apparently intoxicated woman lying on her back on the floor could be seen as distasteful by some people but considered that the woman, who was fully clothed, would be understood as an image of a person who had over-indulged at a party. She was not portrayed in a sexualised or objectifying manner and the ad did not otherwise contain anything which pointed to an exploitative scenario or tone, the ASA concluded, ruling that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread office.
However, the watchdog did rule that the ad portrayed a style of drinking that was excessive and dangerous, in a humorous tone which trivialised such drinking styles. It therefore concluded that the ad promoted excessive drinking and was in breach of the code.
Carpet Store was banned from running the ad again and warned over future conduct.
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