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ASA UK Bans Tesco Mobile Adverts Over Offensive Content

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 (5:14 pm) - Score 3,312

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has banned several adverts for Tesco Mobile – most of which were intended to highlight how big mobile operators were hiking their prices again – after 52 people complained that they contained offensive content (i.e. words that alluded to an expletive) and some could also be seen by children.

The banned promotions (displayed during February 2022), which included several national newspaper ads, one paid-for Twitter post and three outdoor posters, all made use of various words like “shiitake“, “pistachio“, and “fettucine” in phrases – often presented in large text – like “What a load of shiitake“, “They’re taking the pistachio” and “For fettuccine’s sake“, among others. We’re trying hard to keep a straight face on this.

In its defence, Tesco Mobile said they “had not used any offensive words or imagery” and “they prepared the ads with consumers in mind who were facing increasing prices due to the cost-of-living crisis, since the ads highlighted that they were not increasing prices, unlike other providers.”

Interestingly, Tesco also said that when they were made aware that one of their publishers was uncomfortable running some of the copy, they had conducted a further internal review of the ads, but again concluded that the ads were not in breach of the Code.

The publisher, JC Decaux, which had been forewarned by the CAP Copy Advice team that the ads “would likely be in breach” of the code, has since “apologised for the unsuitability and offence caused” and pledged not to repeat the incident.

ASA Ruling – REF: G22-1146813 Tesco Mobile Ltd

We concluded that the allusion to the word “s—”, “p—” and “f—” in ads (a), (b), (c), (d), and (f) with a general adult audience were likely to cause serious and widespread offence.

We concluded that ads (b), (c) and (f) were likely to be seen by children and were therefore inappropriate for display.

As usual, the ASA pulled the adverts in their current form and told Tesco Mobile to avoid using words or phrases which were likely to cause serious offence by, for example, avoiding references to expletives. We have naturally masked some of the swear words above, but you can easily guess most of it.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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14 Responses
  1. Jamie says:

    For figs sake, some people need to develop a sense of humour!

  2. Carl O says:

    Aww I liked these adverts

    Snowflakes everywhere

  3. Carl o says:

    To add, I only ever seen them on social media, and children shouldn’t be on social media anyway so who’s fault is it really.

    1. Jim says:

      Quite a narcissistic reply there. Because you only saw them on social media you came to the conclusion it may be someone elses fault. FYI, JC Decaux the publisher, shows ads on billboards around the UK. https://www.jcdecaux.co.uk/what-we-do/our-media/roadside

  4. John says:

    The journey to becoming a nanny state continues

  5. FibreBubble says:

    >>JC Decaux, which had been forewarned by the CAP Copy Advice team that the ads “would likely be in breach” of the code

    A clearly deliberate and calculated breach of the code. ASA ahould be able to levy fines in such cases.

  6. Ken Taurus says:

    And stuff like this goes to show why the Online Safety Bill needs to pass.

  7. RaptorX says:

    Patheric. The ASA needs to get a life.

  8. NJ says:

    Honestly, are people really so blinking sensitive that a few food based double-entendres send them over the edge? Also, we were all kids once and I’m guessing most of us could swear like a fish-wife by the time we hit 12 or 13. People need to get a grip, the world’s going to hell in a handbag, there are bigger things to worry about.

  9. Mike says:

    What a bunch of ASAholes…

    1. Carl O says:

      Well played.

  10. PaddyB says:

    Dangerous precedent. There are significantly worse things that goes into advertising than “oh Tesco have made reference to a naughty word”. Seriously if a kid knows this is offensive the damage is already done. Meanwhile we’re allowed to sexualise women and make men appear like adonis and icons. I know which ads I’d rather my kids watched (if I had any).

  11. Ed says:

    ASA? They need to get put more if a nut leads to serious offence…

  12. bert says:

    I doughnut believe it

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