Updated: May 23, 2019
My favourite ASA rulings are those that rank swear words. Like, literally pop them on a scale and tell you which is the naughtiest. So this week there’s a particularly joyous ruling which (expletive analysis aside) also reiterates the ASA position on children and targeting of adult content.
A Facebook and Instagram post from Rocker BMX featured an image of a man who was about to throw a small bicycle into a river. Large text on the image stated “the fatgirl was shit … so Dave chucked it in the river”. The image was accompanied by text which stated “#fatgirlminibmx #minibmx #beachcruisercompaniessuckdick”.
The issue here is not about “fatgirl”, btw. Its not a bodyshaming complaint and no girls were thrown into rivers. The point is, of course, whether it’s acceptable to use that kind of language in social media.
As the ASA pointed out, Rocker BMX’s Facebook and Instagram pages included photos and videos of children using their bikes and so it was likely that children would be following them on social media and would therefore have seen the ads.
The ASA describe Facebook and Instagram as untargeted medium – an important point – because despite adults and parents presumably being the predominant purchasers, it’s reasonably obvious that children will be looking at the products online.
Does it matter that the ad is clearly lighthearted and “suck dick” is buried in a hashtag? Nope. Still inapproppriately rude. Or that it doesn’t directly sell a product (but denigrates a competitor’s)? Nope. Still an ad. Or even that only one person complained to the ASA (and none directly to the advertiser)? Nope. The ASA can determine that an ad is offensive with just a single complaint.
And of course there’s the obligatory profanity analysis and assessment:
“shit” is a relatively mild swearword, but “suck dick” is stronger language as it describes an adult act.
Inspirational! So if you’re planning on posting a s***y ad on social media, run it by Hashtag Ad first for a quick sense-check.