What is real FUDGE? ! – Advertising, marketing and branding
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**WARNING: This article is quoting the Advertising Standards Authority using real, ingrained profanity…again! No advertiser has sworn in the writing of this post**
The ASA has banned a series of billboards for Tesco Mobile which substituted swear words for innocuous products. They used the lines “What a load of shiitake”, “They take the pistachio”, and “For the love of fettuccine”. Admittedly, these were non-targeted ads and, in fairness, some were animated so they had more of a “teaser” feel to them as the innocuous words that replaced the offensive words were partially obscured for a few seconds.
It’s reminiscent of two billboards for BrewDog from 2019 and 2020, even if they were rather less subtle. In these BrewDog advertisements, BrewDog had either used asterisks (in one case stating: “F**k You CO2”) or they had hyphenated the word (i.e. “SOBER AS A MOTHER FU”) .
The ASA also took action in 2019 against a billboard for the TV show titled The end of the fucking world, which is hard to promote if they can’t even refer to it with asterisks! In this case, the poster appeared for a single day and triggered a single complaint, but the ASA also upheld the complaint in this case.
Nonetheless, I can understand the ASA’s approach to these advertisements for BrewDog and the makers of The end of the fucking world, as there was very little room for interpretation and these were untargeted ads. Interestingly, in its published decisions, which are still available on the ASA’s website (untargeted and with no age limit), the ASA seemed to go to great lengths to use the actual swear words several times, including figured out using “mother f*cker”
Three once in a single decision. Tut tut.
Oh, the sugar!
However, in the case of Tesco, the decision really tests credulity. I appreciate the untargeted nature of the ads, but given the ASA’s propensity to repeatedly use swear words in their decisions, which advertisers had been careful to avoid, it seems a little hypocritical, to put it mildly. not say overzealous, to censor and censor these advertisements. More importantly, I’m concerned that the ASA seems to enjoy its role as the moral guardian of the nation by banning these downright lighthearted and amusing Tesco adverts.
These latest ads do no more than many families across the country, that is, replace real and genuinely offensive swear words with harmless alternatives. A common refrain when parents catch themselves swearing in the presence of children might be “Oh, sugar” or “Fudge!” for example, but the ASA further lowers the bar by prohibiting ads that use phrases like “Take the pistachio”, claiming they meet the threshold of “causing serious or widespread harm or infringement” and therefore violate the Code CAP. It’s incredibly hard to challenge those kinds of decisions, but I despair of the ASA’s descent into hypersensitivity.
Perhaps there needs to be a broader discussion about what “serious or widespread infringement” really means, and where the bar needs to be set before the regulator can censor and censor ads under this rule.
F*ct check: Do like I do, not like dough.
Even after the advertiser went to great lengths not to use profanity in its advertisements, it behooves me to point out once again that in its decision against Tesco, the ASA used the word:
- “Shit” five time,
- “shit” Seven times, and
- “piss” six time.
Clearly, someone take the pistachio!!
The full judgment is to be found here – the discretion of the reader is advised!
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