ITC criticises Publicis for Megane 'ass' spot

Publicis has had its knuckles rapped after its ad for the Renault Megane, featuring the line "shaking your ass", received 139 viewer complaints to the Independent Television Commission.

The complaints have been upheld and have led to a post-7.30pm restriction being imposed by the ITC on the ad, which has been deemed "offensive".

Viewers objected to the use of the word "ass" in the soundtrack by Groove Armada's song I See You Baby, which was combined with shots of people wiggling their posteriors. Eleven viewers reported that their children - mainly in the two-to- six age range - had copied either the language or the actions used.

The television commercial, which broke in April, aimed to woo more young drivers to the Megane by comparing driving it to the thrill of a sports car.

The use of the Groove Armada track, combined with the shots of dancing bottoms, was intended to show how invigorating it is to drive the three-door Sport Hatch and five-door Hatch.

The BACC had originally approved the commercial on the grounds that it was not shown around programmes made specifically for children. It also said it considered the word "ass" to be relatively mild American slang.

As the term "ass" has featured in previous children's advertising, the BACC ruled that Publicis was merely following this precedent. However, the ITC ruled that some viewers would construe the term's continual appearance in the lyrics, combined with the wiggling bottoms, as sexual.

Therefore, the ad was deemed by the ITC to be unsuitable for times when large numbers of children may be watching.

Separately, Rapier's spot for AA Insurance was rapped for being misleading after 15 viewers complained the ad gave the impression they would automatically be provided with an identical courtesy car, when they might not. The ITC judged the ad was misleading and should not be shown again in its current form.

Additionally, TBWA/London was chastised for a promotional ad it created for The Sun and Alton Towers. The spot showed a man inhaling helium from a party balloon and speaking in a high-pitched comedy squeaky voice.

Seventeen viewers contacted the ITC complaining of the potential serious dangers of inhaling helium gas, which is an asphyxiant. The ITC took the precaution of suspending the ad, pending the outcome of an investigation.

TBWA/London argued that asphyxiation only occurs when the brain is starved of oxygen, but that the gas used to fill party balloons contains oxygen as well as helium.

However, the ITC ruled there was sufficient evidence that the practice of inhaling helium is dangerous, and that the spot must not be transmitted again in its current form.

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