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'Offensive' tampon ad banned after ASAI received 84 complaints

The ASAI upheld complaints that the ad contained general offence, but not that it was demeaning to women or had sexual innuendo.

Image: Tampax

THE ADVERTISING STANDARDS Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has advised that a Tampax “tampons and tea” advertisement should not run again in the same format after receiving 84 complaints against the ad.

The ASAI upheld complaints that said the advertisement caused general offence, but did not uphold complaints which claimed it was demeaning to women, contained sexual innuendo, or was unsuitable for children.

Some complainants said that the advertisement was offensive and that it used an inappropriate manner to discuss a sensitive topic.

They said the advertisement was over-descriptive and had been expressed inappropriately with excessive detail.

The complaints of general offence were upheld by the ASAI.

In its decision, it said:

The Committee noted the Code required that advertising should not cause grave or widespread offence. The Committee noted that the advertisement, although light-hearted in nature, provided factual information in a manner that was neither explicit nor graphic. 
They did not consider that the advertisement had caused grave offence. They noted, however, the level of complaint that had been received and the concerns expressed by complainants about the advertising and considered that it had caused widespread offence. In the circumstances, they considered that the advertisement had breached Section 3.16 of the Code.

The advertisement for Tampax tampons addressed how tampons should be inserted, using a mock chat-show setting.

The ‘host’ asked the audience how many of them could feel their tampon. She told them that they shouldn’t feel it, and that it might mean it wasn’t “in far enough”.

“You gotta get ‘em up there, girls,” she said.

The ad showed a pair of hands displaying how to prepare a tampon to be used and how far it should be inserted.

A voice-over and captions during the demonstration said: “Not just the tip, up to the grip.”

Tampax ad Source: Tampax

Proctor & Gamble, which owns Tampax, said that its consumer research while producing the advertisement had shown that many tampon users felt discomfort some or all of the time when they used a tampon.

It said that it did not believe the advertisement was offensive and that it should be allowed to air.

It was intended to be a “light-hearted advert” on a “very common usage question” that could “educate people on how to use the product”, Proctor & Gamble said.

The ASAI received complaints that the ad was demeaning to women, that it contained sexual innuendo, and that it was unsuitable for young children, none of which were upheld.

Several complainants who said that it was demeaning to women argued that the ad suggested women did not know how to use the product or that they could not read the product instructions.

The complaints committee considered that by posing the question to the audience at the start of the advertisement, it was specifically targeting those who had experienced difficulties.

Complaints of sexual innuendo said that the phrase “get ‘em up there, girls” had sexual connotations and that the advertisement was sexualising the wearing of tampons.

The complaints committee said that the language had been used to describe how to use the product correctly, and that the demonstration was not explicit or graphic.

Proctor & Gamble responded that the intention of the advertisement was not “to have sexual connotations or to offend in any way”.

Others complained that the ad was unsuitable for children and said that it should not have been aired before 9pm.

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Proctor & Gamble said that the target audience for the ad was women between age 16 and 44, and that it had avoided airtime during “kids TV” as it would be of no benefit to them to advertise around programmes that were not watched by their target audience.

It said that in Ireland, advertising for feminine care products was not permitted on programmes with an audience expected to be at least 50% children under 18, and that there were restrictions for advertising feminine care products on UK stations transmitting to Ireland for programmes with an audience comprised 20% or more of children under 16.

The complaints committee considered the advertisement to have been factual and that the content was not inappropriate.

The advertisement had already been the subject of discussion on social media.

In May, it was discussed during a segment on Cork’s 96fm.

The official Tampax twitter account wrote under a tweet from Cork’s 96fm that announced the show’s upcoming topics: “If this ad is wrong, we don’t want to be right”.

In another tweet, Tampax wrote that it was “hoping we can help a lot of people with this ad, whether or not they are new to tampons”.

The ASAI also upheld complaints against advertisements from System 10, Three Ireland, Dunnes Stores, Le Coq Cocktails.

Complaints against advertisements from Hidden Hearing and Circle K were investigated, but not upheld.

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