Eurolines ‘sex tourism’ ad banned

An online and poster campaign for National Express-owned Eurolines has been banned by the ad watchdog following a rash of complaints that it was degrading to women and promoted sex tourism.
The Advertising Standards Authority investigated seven separate issues after 13 complaints over the campaign, which featured an image of a woman wearing a ‘can-can’ costume, lifting her skirt and kicking one leg in the air.
A red box, positioned over her crotch stated “See what you are missing in Europe” and next to the image, it stated “London to Brussels, Amsterdam or Paris from £9 one-way”.
The ads were supported by an audio campaign on Spotify, featuring a male character recounting a trip to Amsterdam, in which he insinuated he had visited the red light district, although many words were bleeped out.
Among the complaints was that the ad made implied references to sex and prostitution and that it was offensive and degrading to women.
One execution of the ad – placed in the toilets of a family-friendly pub and including a QR code in the crotch area – also drew criticism that it could be seen by children.
In its defence, National Express said the image was not intended to be offensive and believed it would not be perceived as degrading to women. The firm believed the ads did not make any reference to sex or prostitution and that the image featured a popular stereotypical image synonymous with Paris. It added that there was no nudity or gratuitous language used.
Ruling on the Spotify audio ad, the ASA admitted some consumers might find the implied sexual content distasteful, but considered that most would view it as light-hearted and that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. A separate poster execution, which did not use the “crotch shot” was also cleared.
But when it came to the main ad, the ASA ruled that by having the text box over the woman’s crotch, it implied that she was naked underneath. The use of the visual and verbal pun in the ads was likely to be understood to present the woman as a sexual object. In addition the QR code execution was also deemed offensive, leading to both ads being banned.

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