'Overtly sexual' e-cig ad given post-9pm restriction

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled a VIP Electronic Cigarette ad can only air a TV ad after the 9pm watershed because of the degree of sexuality in the spot.

The ruling follows 86 complaints from viewers that the ad was offensive because they believed it was overtly sexual and irresponsibly sexualised e-cigarette use. Many complainants challenged whether the ad was suitable for broadcast before 9pm and one challenged that the claim "quality assured since 2009" was misleading.

The ad features a woman in a black dress, saying to the camera: "You know that feeling you get, when something's great? You can touch it, hold it, even see it. Well, now you can taste it." While saying this, she runs her hand over her thigh.

The voice-over states: "Choose the great taste of VIP e-cigarettes and e-liquids. Quality assured since 2009."

Clearcast stated it did not think the ad was overtly sexual, sexualised e-cigarettes or suggest VIP e-cigs were a sexy product. VIP said it had amended earlier advertising after a previous ASA ruling and stated the ad did not contain explicit or implicit sexual imagery and that the product was identified immediately.

Complaints that the ad was offensive were not upheld, nor was the challenge to the claim "quality assured since 2009" found to be misleading, after the ASA assessed a range of product testing and analysis reports dating back to 2009.

However, the ASA upheld the complaint that the ad was unsuitable for broadcast before 9pm. It took the view that despite Clearcast having applied an "ex-kids" restriction, making it unlikely younger children would see the ad, it was concerned the degree of sexuality, while not overt, was also unsuitable for older children.

The body therefore ruled the ad not be broadcast again before 9pm.

VIP’s earlier ad received 1,156 complaints for its overtly sexualised nature. The ASA ruled in February 2014 that particular ad not be broadcast before 11pm and ordered VIP to ensure ads were not likely to cause serious or widespread offence in future and to ensure they were appropriately scheduled.

The ads were both made by 438 Marketing.