Public opinion has hardened against advertisements containing swearing, rude gestures and homosexuality.
According to research from the Advertising Standards Authority, 81 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed agreed that “the use of bad language or rude gestures should never be allowed” in press ads, compared with 71 per cent in a similar ASA study in July 1996.
When people were asked what irritated or annoyed them about press advertising, the biggest change was the increase in those who cited ads “simply showing gays or lesbians”, from four per cent in 1996 to nine per cent in 1998.
More people were also offended at the way both women (71 per cent, compared with 64 per cent in 1996) and men (53 per cent compared with 41 per cent in 1996) were portrayed as sex objects.
However, in 1997 complaints to the ASA about the portrayal of women halved, down from 846 to 433. Seven ads were withdrawn for their sexist or offensive depiction of women compared with 17 in 1996.
Words deemed the most unacceptable for both posters and press advertising were Fcuk, from an ad for French Connection, (60 per cent), followed by Fuck (58 per cent) and Buck off, from a regional press ad for a shopping centre (52 per cent).