Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and Vic Smith Bedding Ltd.
Where: United Kingdom
When: 11 March 2020
Law stated as at: 11 March 2020
The ASA launched an investigation against a regional press ad which featured a headline claim of “British build…beds proudly made in the UK. No nasty imports”, alongside cartoon images of an upright mattress with a Union Jack on the front, wearing a surgical mask.
The ASA noted that the ad was featured against a backdrop of the major outbreak of Covid-19 (coronavirus) across the world. The ASA also noted that as a consequence of the outbreak, there have been reports of people being verbally and physically targeted because of their nationality and race. This includes Asian individuals receiving abuse as a result of wearing face masks.
While the Union Jack indicated the advertisers intention to highlight the locality of the production of their beds, by using the phrase “No nasty imports” alongside the imagery, the ad can be understood as referencing the outbreak and therefore likely to be read as a negative reference to immigration and race, and in particular as associating immigrants with the disease.
The ASA upheld the complaints and found the ad to be in breach of the CAP Code.
Why this matters:
Advertisers should ensure that their ads do not contain content that will be likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should always be taken to avoid causing offence on various grounds of protected characteristics, including race.