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Advertising body defends decision to ban 'offensive' Tampax ad

The ASAI said that the vast majority of complaints came from women.

Image: Tampax

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has defended the decision to uphold complaints that a Tampax ad was offensive.

Orla Toomey, speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime programme, said that the scale of complaints against the ad “would indicate that it has caused widespread offence”.

The ad, which addressed how tampons should be inserted in a mock chat-show setting, received 84 complaints – prompting the ASAI to advise that the advertisement shouldn’t run again in the same format.

The regulatory body upheld complaints that claimed the ad caused general offence. The ASAI didn’t uphold complaints which claimed it was demeaning to women, contained sexual innuendo, or was unsuitable for children.

“Most of the time an ad is complained about, we might get one or two complaints. In the last four and a half years, there have only been seven ads that have had more than 60 complaints made about them,” Toomey said.

She said:

We don’t have an objection at all to there being educational type ads for any product. And certainly not for tampons. But it is about how it is done and the content and the context and the way it is done. And in this case, even some of our complainants were positive about the fact that there was an educational message but they didn’t like the way the message was delivered. I think that’s part of the issue.

While Toomey said that the ASAI didn’t gather demographic information regarding complaints, she said that most of those who took issue with the Tampax ad were women with a “wide range of life experience”. 

“We don’t capture demographic information about our complainants about from their names and addresses, but certainly from the tone of the complaints and from what they’ve said in their complaints, it was across a wide range of life experience,” Toomey told the programme.

In the ad, a TV 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.”

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.

On social media today, the decision by ASAI was widely questioned – with many defending and praising the ad. On RTÉ’s Drivetime programme this evening, founder of Goss.ie Alexandra Ryan said that the complaints were “insane”.

“It’s a way to grab younger women’s attention,” she said. 

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A spokesperson for the ASAI told TheJournal.ie that it “is unusual for advertisements complained about to be subject to more than 50 complaints.  When the number is 80+ it is evidence that the advertisement as caused, for the purposes of the Code, widespread offence”. 

The spokesperson said that since January 2016, the body has received 7,969 complaints about 5,203 advertisements -  seven ads had 60 complaints or more. 

With reporting from Lauren Boland and Sinead O’Carroll

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