How to Complain About Offensive Advertising
Complain to the Advertising Standards Authority if you see any advert on TV/radio, in print or on a billboard that transgresses the bounds of sexual morality, uses under 18s or people portrayed as under 18 (for example, wearing a school uniform) in sexually suggestive ways or demeans women. Key clauses in the Advertisers’ Code to mention are:
- Clause 1.2 of Section 1 – Responsibility to the consumer
- Clause 1 of Section 2 – Offensive advertising
- Clause 3.5 of Section 2 – States that gender stereotyping or negative portrayal is not permitted unless reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society.
- Clause 14 of Section 2 – Children
- Section 4.19 of Section1 defines gender stereotyping as “advertising that portrays a person or persons of a certain gender in a manner that exploits, objectifies or demeans”.
In a 2004 judgement, the Advertising Standards Committee ruled that, “In the context of the abuse of women, it is imperative that advertisers are sensitive to this reality and do not find themselves as promoting that a woman’s body is a playground.” In another important judgement, the ASC ruled that “where a woman’s breasts were compared to an edible object, namely fried eggs, the image of two fried eggs on the bikini top suggested that women’s breasts are food. Women and food are thus consumable objects. In this manner the billboard objectified and exploited the female body.”
Christians were able to get a billboard removed depicting a coconut that resembled a woman’s thighs and pelvic area, with the Teazer’s strip club slogan: “The teaze without the sleaze.” The ASA ruled that, “the focus of the advert is on an object very closely resembling a woman’s genital area …and disembodies the woman to only represent her groin area. In effect, the image communicates that the only part of a woman that is of relevance is her genitals…”
In 2008, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the offensive Sexpo adverts placed around Durban had to be removed as the advert "reinforces a stereotype that women, especially provocatively dressed women, primarily serve as 'eye-candy' and should only be regarded as valuable for their sexual potential" and that "the only area of her body focussed on effectively reduces her to a sexual object."
Another victory was won against an offensive billboard showing a half-naked woman performing a lap dance. In it’s ruling the ASA said the billboard depicted “activities reserved for adults only” and that it is situated on a busy public road. Another favourable ruling, ruled against a similar billboard located near a school.
These judgements reveal that the most successful judgements are those that have ruled on images depicting disembodied women’s body parts, a focus on the genitals or objects resembling a woman’s genitals and where a woman is depicted as a consumable object such as food. Complaints against obvious depictions of sexually orientated activities (such as lap dancing) are also ruled in favour of the complainant.
We need to keep speaking up for family values and complaining against offensive adverts even if the ASA repeatedly rules in favour of the advertisers. If the ASA receives hundreds of complaints every month, they will start taking notice. Through persistent prayer and pressure we will make a difference (Luke 18:1-8).