The Advertising Standards Authority has banned several Tesco Mobile ads after receiving 52 complaints.
Part of a campaign created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the ads featured phrases such as “What a load of shiitake”, which was included alongside text that read: “The big mobile networks are raising your bills again. Join us for prices that stay fixed.”
Other taglines included “They’re taking the pistachio”, and “For fettuccine’s sake”.
Three of the ads ran as full-page newspaper ads in the Daily Express and Daily Mail, two digital outdoor posters, and a paid-for Twitter post.
Complaints challenged whether the ads were offensive because the words “shiitake”, “pistachio”, and “fettuccine” alluded to an expletive and whether ads were appropriate for display as they could be seen by children.
In response, Tesco Mobile said it did not believe the ads were in breach of the CAP Code as it had not used any offensive words or imagery.
The Daily Express said that while words like “shiitake” alluded to expletives, it believed it was not as offensive as using the expletives themselves. It also noted several previous ASA rulings in which ads featured words that alluded to expletives, but complaints had not been upheld by the self-regulatory body.
However, it did acknowledge that humour is subjective and needed to be gauged in light of its audience.
Ultimately, the ASA ruled that the four ads including “shiitake” and “pistachio” were likely to cause serious or widespread offence, as well as one digital ad which read "For F- sake", before revealing the word "fettuccine".
However, no action was taken against one of the print ads which read “For fettuccine’s sake” as it was not considered close enough to the expletive.