The ASA does not like to be ignored.
The U.K.'s famously assertive advertising watchdog today upheld a complaint about an Agent Provocateur video on the luxury lingerie brand's website. The film, which introduced AP's 2011/2012 collection, was directed by Justin Anderson and produced out of Epoch. It features a woman dressed in an innocent-looking nightgown stalked by what turns out to be a group of scantily-dressed dominatrix-types, who ultimately descend upon her and give her a "makeover" more befitting of the Agent Provocateur brand. The film, titled "Fleurs du Mal," was cleared of misogyny complaint by the ASA in March.
A more recent complainant argued that the film was "irresponsible" since it appeared on a website where children could easily access it. Not only did the ASA conclude that the site lacked sufficient age verification protection, it also sharply reprimanded the brand for its "lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code," after Agent Provocateur chose to simply not respond to the ASA's inquiry.
The ASA ruled that the ad must be put in a place where children cannot easily access it. However, the brand's identity has always been defined by its category-defying, provocative, sensual videos. What do you think? Should the ASA lighten up because this video is at least creatively different from the plethora of other lingerie spots? Or is its overtly sexual tone -- which is replicated in plenty of YouTube videos anyway -- a just cause for worry?
Separately, the ASA also banned an in-game Mountain Dew ad that features a teenager on a skateboard, sliding down an escalator and "surfing" on railroad tracks, attached to a rope thrown to him by someone inside a moving underground train. The ad later states "Don't Dew this at home." Four complainants asked if the ad encouraged risky behavior, especially since it appeared inside gaming apps and media likely to be seen by kids. Mountain Dew parent PepsiCo said the risky ad template is one the brand has used for years (see this one from 1999, or this one from 2001, for example), and is not meant to be a real scenario. Also, it's targeted at young adults, who are presumably smart enough to know that it's not something to try at home.
The ASA upheld both complaints, and told PepsiCo the ad must not appear again in its current form. But the question is, should brands be more mindful of whether people will take their outrageous ads seriously enough to copy them? Or should the ASA recognize that the general population is intelligent enough to know what's too risky to emulate? Is everyone getting too sensitive? Tell us in the comments.