Internet security giant Kaspersky Lab has been censured over a TV ad which suggested to children that sexting was normal – and that its software could protect their explicit images from prying eyes – after scores of complaints to the ad watchdog.
The ad, which aired after the watershed in December, was actually designed to show just how “protected” households could be if they installed Kaspersky Lab software.
It kicked off with a young woman taking selfies on her mobile phone as she unbuttoned her shirt, revealing she was wearing nothing underneath. She said: “I want to show myself. But only to my boyfriend.”
The next scene featured a man and woman in bed on their laptop and their son in bed on his tablet device next door. They said: “We want our son to feel free surfing online, but not access the stuff we like.”
It then panned to another woman who said: “We want to shop online… without risking our credit card details.”
In the final scene, the characters all said “I want to be protected” before a close up of the product with the strapline “Helping protect your Internet experience.”
However, rather than feeling protected, 70 viewers felt disgusted and rifled off complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. They believed the ad normalised the practice of sending explicit images by text and implied that the online security protection offered by Kaspersky would protect young people from third parties seeing explicit pictures of them.
In response, Kaspersky Lab UK apologised that the ad had been challenged by so many viewers for being irresponsible and claimed it would try not to upset viewers in future. But crucially it did not provide a substantive response to the complaint; it simply said it was no longer being used and would not be used in future.
The Advertising Standards Authority said: “We consulted with the NSPCC, and a spokesperson stated that seeing adults engaging in the sending of sexualised images may reinforce the perception that the activity – which presented real risks for children and young people – was widespread and may increase the pressure and coercion that young people already experienced to engage in the practice.
“Because the ad had the effect of normalising the act of taking and sending explicit photos on a mobile phone, we concluded that it had the potential to cause harm to under 18s and was therefore irresponsible.
“We welcomed Kaspersky’s comments that the ad had been withdrawn and would not be used again.”
It said the ad breached its code on social responsibility and harm and offence and said: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Kaspersky Lab UK to ensure in future its ads were socially responsible and did not contain anything likely to cause harm to people under the age of 18 years.”
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