1. Extracts from Code of ASAI
2. Case report on Malibu September -December 1999, on display at Tara St Dart station, Dublin.
3. Criminal action taken by CIE
Extracts from Code of Advertising Standards
issued by Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland:
2. General Rules
2.1 All advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.
2.2 All advertisements should be prepared with a
sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
6. Alcoholic Drinks
6.1 Advertisements for alcoholic drinks (i.e. those that exceed 1.2% alcohol by volume) should be socially responsible and should not exploit the young or the immature. They should neither encourage excessive drinking nor present abstinence or moderation in a negative way.
6.2 An advertisement may refer to the social dimension or refreshing attributes of a drink but
(a) should not emphasise the stimulant, sedative or tranquillising effects of a drink or imply that it can improve physical performance,
(b) should not imply that drinking is necessary to social or business success or distinction or that those who do not drink are less likely to be acceptable or successful than those who do,
(c) should not suggest that any drink can contribute towards sexual success or make the drinker more attractive to the opposite sex.
6.3 Advertisements should not portray drinking as a challenge nor should it be suggested that those who drink are brave or daring.
6.4 Advertisements should not be directed at young people or in any way encourage them to start drinking. Accordingly:
(a) Anyone depicted in an alcohol advertisement should appear to be over twenty five.
(b) Advertisements should not feature real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under eighteen in a way that would encourage them to drink.
End of extracts
ASAI Complaints Bulletin 99/6
Batch No: 118
Advertiser: Gilbys- Malibu
Complaint: A number of related poster advertisements for Malibu alcoholic drink were the subject of complaints. The posters depicted a young female with the captions: “When you’re good all day you deserve a night off” and “You can be pure Or you can be chased” and the words “Taste Freedom” under a caption of a bottle of Malibu Caribbean White Rum. The objections were that the posters might suggest that a female who chooses not to be pure is “looking for it” or deserves whatever happens to her; that the girl seemed to be very young, 15 – 19 perhaps; the advertisements offended against chastity and reduced young or adolescent woman to mere sex objects, they played on the vulnerability of young girls seeking romance and suggested sexual conquest.
Code Section: 6.2 6.4
The advertisers responded that the primary objective of this advertising campaign was to build a relevant and credible dialogue with their key target audience of Malibu drinkers aged 21 and over, male and female. They chose a model who not only looked over 25 years but who was in fact 25 years of age some 2 weeks after the shoot. The campaign was designed to encapsulate the sense of freedom of their target audience and to associate the brand with their target audiences' desire to have fun. The reference to 'pure' was intended to play on the thought that sometimes you want to be angelic but other times you have to have more fun – i.e. "be chased". In no way did they try to suggest that Malibu contributed to sexual success or indeed attractiveness to the opposite sex. In fact by using the angelic imagery they tried to dramatise the good, clean fun and sense of innocence adventure which their target audience typically enjoys. The intended style of photography was to be stylised and sophisticated and could in no way be construed to reflect badly on young women or their sexuality.
The Code of Advertising Standards requires that advertisements for alcoholic drinks should not be directed at young people or in any way encourage them to start drinking and accordingly it prescribes that anyone depicted in an alcohol advertisement should appear to be over 25. The Code also stipulates that an advertisement may refer to the social dimension or refreshing attributes of the drink but it should not suggest that any drink can contribute to sexual success or make the drinker more attractive to the opposite sex.
The Complaints Committee considered the advertisements and the response of the advertisers and held that the young woman depicted in the advertisement did not appear to be over 25 years of age and in fact appeared to be considerably younger looking. They noted that the model was in fact under 25 years of age when the advertisement was made. They considered the advertisement to be in breach of the Code of Advertising Standards in this respect. They also considered that references to 'pure' and 'chased', particularly when associated with a young person, were inappropriate for an advertisement for alcoholic drink and were in breach of the spirit of the Code of Advertising Standards.
3. Criminal action taken by CIE
Middle-aged man fined for protesting banned sexist drinks advertisement
A middle-aged man was on Tuesday, 29 February, fined £200 for protesting against a sexist advertisement for an intoxicating drink at a Dart station in October last. The advertisement had been the subject of a number of complaints from the public and was found to be in breach of the Code of the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland. The prosecution was brought by CIE (Iarnrod Eireann) at the Dublin Metropolitan District Court, and was heard by Mr Justice Lucey.
The poster depicted a young female, appearing as an angel, with the caption "You can be pure Or you can be chased" and the words "Taste Freedom" under a caption of a bottle of Malibu Carribean White Rum. The man had registered his protest by over-writing the word "chased" with "a hoor". He also protested in writing to the Advertising Standards Authority.
He explained that, according to the ASAI's code, all advertisements should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. Advertisements for alcoholic drinks should not be directed at young people, should not depict anyone as young as 15 -19, and should not suggest that a drinker would be more attractive to the opposite sex. Those responsible for the advertisement, Gilbeys, TDI, and particularly CIE, had contravened the code in all these respects. The poster also trivialised chastity, and it portrayed a young girl as a sex object, in association with an intoxicating drink. Advertising of this kind, he believed, had consequences for young women.
While the ASAI had upheld his complaint, and had presumably asked for the removal of the posters, some of the posters were still in place three weeks after their decision. The man said his sole motivation was the protection of the vulnerable, and proper respect for women.
He deplored CIE's part in this poster campaign. CIE is a public service company subsidised by the taxpayer, and, as such, it has a particular duty to ensure that publicity it profits from is not socially damaging. It also has the privilege of being able to access the minds of large numbers of a captive public at close quarters, and this too carries its responsibilities. CIE should be expected to show the lead in what is proper in the public interest.
It was therefore ironic that it was CIE who prosecuted a citizen, not the other way round. In his view, a far more serious case than a charge of mere defacement of a poster, lies against this semi-state body.
The National Women's Council, the Rape Crisis Centre, and Women's Aid were invited to send representatives to the trial, but none made an appearance.
1. What emerges from this case is that, for all its good intentions, the Code and the complaints procedure is not effective. The ASAI meets every two months to adjudicate on complaints. With knowledge of the date of the meeting and good timing, an objectionable advertisement can be on display for two months before a decision is made. Some time must then be allowed for the poster to be removed. In all, the poster can be on display for almost 3 months, which is probably the length of time the poster would be on display in any event.
The Code has no legal force, and there is no penalty for breaches.
One may wonder, therefore, what useful purpose is served by the procedure.
Can it be that, on occasions when the Benneton effect comes into play and there is widespread public indignation over an ad, the public have somewhere to let off steam, the industry is seen to be doing the right thing, and the advertiser gets his money's worth from the advertisement, with possibly some free publicity arising from the controversy engendered. That way, everybody's happy, and yet, nothing's changed!
2. CIE has the privelige of being able to initiate a criminal prosecution, rather than a civil action, under the Railways Clauses (Consolidation) Act, 1846. It must surely follow that it has a concomitant duty to behave in a responsible way towards the public for the advertising it permits for display on its property for profit. There is clearly no evidence of a sense of responsibility in this case.
2. It is interesting that the State has facilitated CIE (plus TDI and Gilbeys) in a criminal prosecution.
Having aided those profiting from the advertisement, the State would seem to have taken no further interest in the case, in particular, in the light of the public interest nature of the protest, to see if the poster itself was not in contravention of the law, such as the Indecent Advertisements Act, 1889.
29 February 00