Fed up with inconsistent rulings on what ads are indecent and should be banned? The solution’s clear, just get out your set square and check the body angles
Who: Transport Di Who: Transport Displays Incorporated, Pathe Distributors Ltd
Where: London Underground
When: March 2001
While the London Underground caught considerable flak for refusing to allow steamy tube ads for radio station Heart 106.2, they received no praise for taking a much more liberal view of underground ads for a film entitled "the Escort" which at first sight seemed even more raunchy. Why the difference? The answer was crystal clear to the Advertising Standards Authority, which threw out the "Escort" complaints. The apparently naked couple shown close-up were at such an angle to eachother it would have been physically impossible for them to be doing anything tube travellers would not wish to see.
At least that seemed to be the rationale for the difference between the two decisions. In Heart's "Just another night" both protagonists are clothed although the male is at least checking out the elastic of his companion’s top while she bears down on him in a passionate embrace. In "The Escort", the "strapline" (sic) says "I’ll be your friend, I’ll be your lover, but it’s strictly by the hour" and the male looks at his watch while in close contact with the female. Having perhaps taken expert advice, however, the ASA was able to say with confidence that as "the couple seemed to be at right angles to each other" it made it "impossible for them to be doing anything except embracing." So the ad survived.
Why this matters:
Advertisers often despair at the apparent inconsistencies of regulators when handling "soft" distress/offence issues, but the medium can make a lot of difference. Whether, as indicated by London Underground, there is that great a difference between cross-tube-track ads and roadside hoardings, is surely open to debate.
Heart 106.2’s marketing manager bemoaned her ad’s fate saying a standard set of guidelines covering all media would help advertisers know where they stood. And the Escort adjudication shows the way: the obvious solution is a lexicon of acceptable and unacceptable body juxtaposition angles for ads, a form of self regulatory kama sutra!