Illicit dating apps and websites are not exactly known for their subtlety but Affairalert.com must take the prize for the most crass use of targeting after two pop-up ads – featuring selfies of naked women asking users whether they wanted sex – appeared in children’s app My Talking Tom.
The first ad included a selfie of a naked woman sitting in front of a mirror. The photo had been cropped to just show her torso. Her breasts were exposed but her crotch was concealed by her hand. The words “Wanna fuck?” were written in lipstick on the mirror. Text above the image stated “Want to fuck her?” and the options “YES”, “MAYBE” and “NO” were stated below.
A second ad included a selfie of a naked woman also in front of a mirror, in profile. The photo was cropped so her face was not visible, but her breasts were exposed. Text above the image stated “Want to fuck her?” and the options “YES”, “MAYBE” and “NO”, were stated below.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, two parents of children aged seven and three who were using the app when the ads appeared, were not too chuffed, and rifled off a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. They said the ads had been inappropriately and irresponsibly placed in a game likely to be played by children.
However, the company behind the app, Plymouth Associates, denied all knowledge of the placement, maintaining that a third party, without their knowledge or consent, had found a temporary means of exploiting the app by inserting malicious ad code.
Without the link code, they were unable to determine the third party responsible for the insertion of the ad code.
Meanwhile My Talking Tom owner Outfit7 said that although its app was not directed at children, it was family friendly, and had a number of advertising restrictions in place. It too said it had failed to establish what network was responsible for the ad.
Plymouth Associates, the owner of Affairalert.com, claimed they had no role in placing the ad and believed a malicious third party may have been involved. They stressed that they would never intentionally allow an ad to appear in a place children could view it.
Not that the ASA was convinced; the watchdog said it had received no evidence to suggest the ad had been maliciously placed.
Its ruling stated: “The sexually explicit content of the ads and the product they promoted meant that they should not appear in media which might be seen by children. We considered that the My Talking Tom app, in which the ads had appeared, would be of particular appeal to children.”
Rapping Plymouth Associates over the knuckles, the ASA warned the firm that it must ensure its ads were targeted appropriately and did not appear in apps that were played by children in future.
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