Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ASA Rules Beer Ad "Disrespectful To Asian Culture"

The Advertising Standards Authority has found that a beer ad is "disrespectful to Asian culture," and "likely to cause serious or widespread offence."

An ad, for Tiger Beer, appeared on poster and in the Metro and London Lite newspapers.  A small image of a bottle of Tiger beer was shown in the top left-hand corner, which was labelled with a star that stated "THE FAR EASTS MOST DESIRABLE EXPORT SINCE 1932".  In the foreground of the ad was a large image of a person wearing black stockings, knickers and a bra, with a sheer blouse that was not fastened.  The person was putting something into their mouth and was labelled with a star that stated "3rd".


Tiger Beer UK Ltd said the campaign was not intended to condone lewd behaviour, human trafficking or the sex trade in, or as exports of, the Far East.  They said the campaign was intended to reflect Tiger Beers Far Eastern heritage and build on its position as the "Far Easts most desirable export since 1932" by presenting it in the context of other recognised Far Eastern exports including ladyboys, tuk tuks, chop sticks and acupuncture, all of which were treated with the respect they deserved. 

They said ladyboys were a famous export of the Far East worldwide and the image of the ladyboy in the ad was representative of a cabaret performer rather than a prostitute or model; throughout the campaign ladyboys had been celebrated and treated with the utmost respect.  Tiger Beer UK said all of the ads in the series included a web address where consumers could obtain tickets to events that brought the Far Eastern exports in the ads to life and included ladyboy cabaret, tuk tuks, martial arts and karaoke.    

They believed the campaign was an exciting fusion of Far Eastern exports and was well positioned within the UKs contemporary culture. Their agency had undertaken research prior to the campaign, the findings of which had not given them any reason to believe that the target audience would find the ads offensive.  Tiger Beer UK said their agency had also sought the guidance of the CAP Copy Advice team, who had informed them the ad was not without risk of complaints.  They said having run the ad they realised members of the public beyond the target audience could have interpreted the ads differently to how they were intended, particularly because some of the ads appeared in untargeted media.  They had therefore taken the decision to remove the ladyboy image from the campaign.   

London Lite said they considered the campaign to be light-hearted and, because it had a humorous tone, not offensive or disrespectful to Eastern culture.  They considered it to be suitable for their readers, who were not children but a "young, urbanite London crowd", who would see the ad as humorous and would not find it offensive.  They said although they had not received any complaints about the ad, they did not have any plans to use it in the future.   

The Outdoor Advertising Association said they thought the ad was suitable because it was light-hearted rather than offensive.

The ASA noted the ad was intended to reflect the brands heritage and that Tiger Beer UKs agency had undertaken research that did not give them reason to believe the target audience were likely to be offended by the ad.  We also noted however that the ad was likely to be seen by many consumers outside of that target audience, particularly when appearing in the untargeted poster medium. 

We noted the CAP Copy Advice team had told the agency that they were concerned that the image linked the product with potentially undesirable export activities such as human trafficking and was, therefore, likely to offend.

We understood that the ads image was intended to represent a ladyboy cabaret act.  We considered, however, that by presenting the character in sexual clothing and a provocative pose alongside the implication that she was rated the Far Easts third most desirable export, the ad appeared to link exports with the sex trade and, potentially, human trafficking.  We also considered the ad suggested beer and sex were two of the best exports of the Far East, which was disrespectful to Eastern culture.  We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. 

On both points, the ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency).

Read the entire ruling here.

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