The two ads, which appeared on TV after the 9pm watershed, show a woman and a man speaking into the camera. In the first one, the woman states “I want you to get it out. I want to see it. Feel it. Hold it. Put it in my mouth. I want to see how great it tastes”.
In the second, the man replies. In both a female voice-over says “If you’re gonna Vape, Vape with VIP”. Both also include on-screen text that shows VIP e-cigarettes contain nicotine and are unsuitable for those aged under 18.
The ad received 1,156 complaints across 7 issues, making it the sixth most complained about ad of all time. It would have beaten out last year’s winner Gocompare.com, which had 1,008 complaints, and easily beat Phones 4 U’s spooky dead girl ads, which were the most complained about in 2011 with 659 complaints.
The ASA says both ads breached the advertising code because of their “sexually provocative presentation” of the woman and man. It adds that the timing restriction was not sufficient to avoid offending viewers and that they should only have been shown after 11pm.
However, the ad regulator added that the same ads shown on YouTube did not breach the code and also cleared the spots for a number of other complaints, including criticisms that they were “sexist”, “irresponsible” and that the term “vape” could be a wordplay on the word “rape”. They also escaped censure over accusations that they “glamorised” the nicotine product and could encourage excessive or inappropriate use.
The first UK TV e-cigarette ads were launched by SKYCIG in January last year but subsequently banned by the ASA. There are strict rules surrounding the advertising of tobacco but these are not specific to e-cigarettes.
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP and BCAP), the sister bodies of the ASA responsible for writing the UK advertising code, are currently preparing the development of a new set of ad rules. A full public consultation is due imminently.