Harvey Nicks ‘wet patch’ ad cleared

A Harvey Nichols direct mail, email and press campaign which featured people who had wet themselves with excitement in anticipation of the retailer’s summer sale has been cleared by the regulator despite attracting more than 130 complaints.
The Advertising Standards Authority received 94 complaints that the ad was offensive, while 29 said it would cause distress and serious offence to people with bladder problems.
Harvey Nichols said it had attempted to capture excitement about the sale in a light-hearted way by a visual representation of the well-known phrase “I was so excited, I nearly wet myself.” The ad was devised by DDB UK.
The retailer claimed some of the complainants were offended on others’ behalf, and provided the ASA with three blog entries from people with bladder problems who found the ads amusing.
Rejecting the complaints, the ASA acknowledged that the concept of “wetting oneself with excitement” was well known and often used in the media and in speech in a light-hearted manner, but conceded that images were likely to be seen as “unsubtle and tasteless by many members of the general public”.
It added: “We understood that around 14 million people in the UK had bladder problems and involuntary urination was likely to be a particularly sensitive issue for many.
“Nonetheless, we considered the ads would not be seen as making light of people with urinary problems and therefore, even to those who suffered from such problems, were unlikely to cause them serious offence.”
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