Saucy posters recently landed two advertisers with one of the ASA’s most potent enforcement weapons, the dreaded two year compulsory pre-vetting. But will it still apply now that French Connection has dropped FCUK in its advertising?
Who: French Connection and Ann Summers
Where: The Advertising Standards Authority
When: July 2004
The UK's self-regulatory body for non-broadcast advertising recently wheeled out one of its most potent enforcement weapons against two outdoor advertisers. The victims were Ann Summers and French Connection. The weapon was a two year compulsory pre-vetting requirement. This obliges both advertisers to have all their outdoor advertising pre-vetted by the Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP") for a period of two years.
Once the two year period starts, an alert goes out to contractors who own poster sites. This is done by way of the ASA's sister body the CAP. Those sitting on the Committee represent most media owners in the UK that carry advertising, including the Outdoor Advertising Association.
The alert goes out to contractors who own poster sites and advises them that from the advertisers in question, they should only accept for display material that has the stamp of approval of the CAP.
The Ann Summers edict followed the appearance on poster sites on vans promoting a new store in the Banbury area. It showed a woman in a G-string and bra astride a model horse with the strap line "Ride a cock hoarse". Given that this would be seen freely by all members of the public, the ad was deemed particularly offensive and harmful to children because of its play on words echoing a popular nursery rhyme which would catch kids' attention.
In the case of French Connection the problem was a poster for its radio station which read "FCUK FM from PNUK to RCOK and back. non-stop FMUK. FCUK FM".
French Connection had already been warned on a number of occasions about advertising encouraging the interpretation of the FCUK trademark as an expletive.
Why this matters:
The decision shortly after this on the part of French Connection to drop FCUK from its UK advertising may not be entirely unconnected with this development. Whether this will enable them to side-step the pre-vetting requirement is doubtful, unless of course they came to a particular arrangement with the ASA in this case that the pre-vetting would only apply if the FCUK logo featured.
Whether or not this is the position, these cases underline the effectiveness of the self-regulatory system and will concentrate the minds of outdoor advertisers everywhere who try to push the line.