ASA censures e-cigarette brand VIP after more than 1,000 complaints

A set of TV ads for VIP Electronic Cigarettes have been investigated because of their raunchy nature, with the Advertising Standards Authority deeming them unsuitable for broadcast before 11pm.

The marketing of e-cigarettes has become a controversial topic and the ad from VIP has now added to its roster of criticisms. The ASA received 1,156 complaints, which were all themed around the overtly sexualised nature of the ad.

The first TV commercial shows a woman speaking directly into the camera, saying: "I want you to get it out. I want to see it. Feel it, hold it. Put it in my mouth. I want to see how great it tastes."

A man in the second set of ads says: "Do you want to see it? I can get it out if you'd like. You can feel it hold it, put it in your mouth and see how great it tastes." 

Complainants raised the following issues with the ads:

  • They were overly sexual in nature
  • They understood the term "vape" (the inhalation of vapour from e-cigarettes), used in a sexual context, to be wordplay on the term "rape"
  • They were sexist, degrading and exploited women
  • They were irresponsible, because they sexualised and glamorised e-cigarettes and smoking
  • They irresponsibly promoted a smoking-related product, for which the health effects were yet to be established, to young viewers
  • A number of complainants challenged whether ads (a) and (c) were appropriately scheduled, because they could be viewed by children
  • One complainant challenged whether ad (a) was irresponsible, because it failed to carry an appropriate health warning associated with nicotine products

The commercial was originally cleared by Clearcast with a post-9pm restriction. In a statement to the ASA, Clearcast said it did not believe the TV ads degraded or exploited women, nor did it believe the ads were sexist. They also thought that the male actor’s lines were suggestive, but were not demeaning or sexist.

The ASA said that the ad must not be broadcast again before 11pm. It also told VIP to ensure ads are not likely to cause serious or widespread offence in future and to ensure that they were appropriately scheduled.

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