Complaints about an ad featuring animated human faeces have been dismissed by the Advertising Standards Board
A television advertisement for Reckitt Benckiser’s VIPoo – which RB described on launch as a “proactive pre-poo toilet spray” designed to combat smells – was flagged by viewers as in bad taste, discriminating or vilifying gender, and containing inappropriate language.
Comments from the complaints included:
“Advertising in general is good, but there’s no need to show animated human faeces in the shape of donuts;” and “I am not a prude, but I don’t appreciate having that thrust in my face, especially while I am eating, It annoying”.
The ad featured an actor taking a break from her red carpet appearance to state that even Hollywood stars need to “punish the porcelain”.
She then sprays a toilet bowl with VIPoo and says that the spray will trap the odour of the user’s “devil’s doughnuts”. This is followed by cartoon imagery of brown doughnuts trapped in the toilet’s water.
RB responded that it felt the ad did not portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies women, and that the tone and language used by its “Hollywood Sweetheart” was designed to engage the core target market of Gen X and Y women.
“The approach taken in the TVC is clearly intended to be light hearted, matter-of-fact, humorous and tongue-in-cheek,” said RB, saying that there was no intention to imply that women had difficulty using toilets or were “paranoid” about toilet smells.
It cited its 2017 market research, “VIPoo Toilet Habits Survey,” which showed both genders experience self-consciousness when toileting due to bad odours.
RB said it would be difficult to depict the “spray and trap” mechanism of the product in a socially acceptable manner without the cartoon-like graphics.
Use of the terms “punish the porcelain,” “devil’s doughnuts” and “icky smell” were euphemisms designed to explain how the product works without resorting to more direct and potentially more offensive terms, it said.
In considering its decision, the Board said that “the issue of taste falls outside of the Code, therefore the Board cannot consider this aspect of the complaints when making its determination”.
It found the ad did not discriminate or vilify women and that the language used to describe faeces and toileting was not “strong or obscene” and “not inappropriate”.
The complaints were dismissed.