ASA bans 'racist' mattress ad for linking coronavirus to nationality

Execution showed bed wearing green surgical mask.

Vic Smith Beds: agreed ad will not appear again
Vic Smith Beds: agreed ad will not appear again

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a regional press ad for Vic Smith Beds, following complaints that it was "likely to cause serious and widespread offence" by linking coronavirus to "nationality and/or race".

The execution, which appeared in the Enfield and Haringey Independent on 12 February, showed a cartoon of a mattress – boasting a Union Jack and a green surgical mask – alongside the copy: "British build beds proudly made in the UK. No nasty imports."

In response to the two complaints received, Vic Smith Bedding claimed that "it had not been their intention to cause offence" as it caters to a multi-ethnic customer base and it had shown the ad to their multicultural workforce in advance of publishing.

Vic Smith Beds: ad banned for potential to cause 'widespread offence'

The brand also said it had only included the Union Jack due to suggestions from customers that it should advertise that the beds were British-made. 

The ASA concluded that the execution was likely to cause offence in light of news reports of "groups being physically and verbally targeted" as a result of wearing face masks.

Vic Smith Beds was told the ad must not appear again and advised to ensure it avoided causing similar offence moving forward. It agreed that the ad would not be repeated moving forward.

Last week (4 March), the ad watchdog banned a series of ads marketing face masks as protection against coronavirus, deeming them "likely to cause fear".


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