The advert’s key target audience is children between the age of 12 to 18 which is why I feel strongly enough to raise it with you. The reason I am raising it with you is that I suspect it may breach the following Broadcast Codes:
1. UK Code of Broadcast Advertising – Specifically Section 3 (Misleading Advertising), Section 4 (Harm & Offence), Section 5 (Children) and Section 7 (Political & Controversial Matters).
2. Ofcom Broadcasting Code – Specifically Section 2 (Harm & Offence).
My complaint is as follows:
1. In it’s current format the advert is extremely offensive because it promotes the message that most abuse in relationships is perpetrated by men against women.
If you review the campaign’s related twitter hashtag you will see that most people have commented on the fact that the advert is misleading and offensive: https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=%23DisrespectNoBody
2. In it’s current format the advert is extremely misleading because it promotes the message that most abuse in relationships is perpetrated by men against women.
The advertiser’s justification for this message is set out in the accompanying teacher guidance which references CPS data showing that 92% of defendants in domestic abuse cases are men & 84% of victims are women.
On face value this appears reasonable however this position is severely undermined by other relevant data promoted in the campaign literature.
It is widely understood that incidents of partner abuse prosecuted represent the tip of the iceberg. The Home Office indicate the most reliable estimates of the true extent of abuse comes from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
Based on the most recent survey it is estimated that 8% of women and 4% of men will have experienced abuse in the past year. Overall it is estimated that 6.7 million people will have experienced some form of abuse since the age of 16. By gender this breaks down to an estimated 4.5 million female and 2.2 million male victims.
Such evidence presents a more complex picture where 1 in every 3 people reporting experience of abuse is male. Indeed the most comprehensive review of domestic violence research literature conducted found that women perpetrate physical & emotional abuse at comparable rates to men and the most common manifestation of abuse in relationships involves dysfunctional behaviour by both partners.
Most significantly, the Introduction to the Campaign Guidance states that it and the accompanying television advert is informed by two specific pieces of research. The first, undertaken by the NSPCC, found that two-thirds of girls and a third of the boys reported experiencing emotional violence and a quarter of both girls and boys reported instigating partner control in their relationships.
3. In it’s current format the advert has the potential to cause mental or moral harm to children and it’s content may not be in compliance with Section 5 of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising.
It is not my wish to undermine the obvious merit of a campaign with the stated aim of seeking to prevent young people from them becoming perpetrators and victims of relationship abuse. Nor is it my intention to suggest that the advert should necessarily be required to indulge demographic tick boxing for the sake of political correctness.
That said, I believe that the intentional bias of the advert could genuinely cause a detriment to young male viewers and note than one sixteen year old GCSE student has started a petition in relation to this which has already almost achieved 1,000 signatures https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/123299
The related Teacher Guide states that it is important to explain to pupils that heterosexual men and people in homosexual relationships can also experience partner abuse. Despite this all 5 scenarios presented are of a heterosexual boy as the perpetrator of relationship abuse and a heterosexual girl as the victim.
The decision not to include at least one out of the five scenarios as an example of where a male can be a victim of partner abuse is questionable even when acknowledging the CPS data on the gender of defendants in domestic abuse case, it becomes extremely problematic when the relevant CSEW data is taken into account and is frankly inexcusable when the NSPCC data is understood.
Even if the sole purpose of the advert was to reduce the incidence of partner abuse perpetration by heterosexual males on heterosexual females regardless of any offence to male viewers it seems unlikely to succeed. A stated aim of the campaign is to engage boys in a positive & engaging way. Promoting an gender exclusive message seems seems unlikely to achieve this goal, even if it could be justified by the available data (which quite obviously it can’t).
By tweaking the audio track of the advert slightly it should be possible to promote a more accurate and inclusive message without remotely compromising the campaign aims (quite the opposite in fact).
Joanne Middlewick <JoanneM@asa.org.uk>
Dear Mr Bloke,
Thank you for contacting the ASA.
You may be interested to know that we received a number of complaints about this ad, which we decided to refer to the independent ASA Council for consideration, rather than simply using staff delegated responsibility. The ASA Council is the jury that decides whether advertisements have breached the Advertising Codes.
Council carefully considered the ad and the issues raised, but concluded that there were insufficient grounds for further ASA intervention on this occasion.
I should explain that the ASA does not intervene where advertising is simply criticised for being in poor taste. The Code requires that ads must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence, but ads may be ‘distasteful’ without necessarily breaching this rule. Complaints about offence often require difficult judgements. Apart from freedom of speech considerations, even well-intentioned and thoughtful people will have different and sometimes contradictory opinions about what constitutes ‘bad taste’ or should be prohibited. We can act if the ad, in our judgement, offends against widely accepted moral, social or cultural standards.
The issues that Council considered were whether the ad was offensive and misleading because it implied that only men engaged in abusive behaviours. They also considered whether the ad was irresponsible, because it may have prevented male victims of domestic abuse from seeking help.
Whilst Council noted that the ad made references to various abusive behaviours directed towards a ‘girlfriend’, they considered that it made no direct claims regarding the likelihood of boys or men in particular being abusive nor did it state that girls or women could never be abusive. Council regarded that viewers were generally likely have understood that domestic abuse could be committed, and subsequently suffered by, both genders, and they considered that the ad was unlikely to undermine viewers appreciation that the overall message applied equally to anyone who had experience of the type of behaviour shown, rather than condemning one sex or another. Council also noted that the ad encouraged viewers to search for more information about the campaign, and that the online resources provided by the advertiser offered specific guidance and advice to boys being abused by girls and for those who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender. While Council appreciated that some viewers may have found the ad to be biased and therefore distasteful, they concluded that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, to be seen as sexist, or to mislead consumers about the likelihood that abusers would be of a particular gender.
As your concerns about the ad are the same as those already considered by Council, we will be taking no further action with regards to your complaint. However, please rest assured that the concerns raised about this ad were referred to the advertiser so they are aware of public response. We will also continue to monitor the response to this ad.
Although this may not be the response you were hoping for, I would like to thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us. If you would like more information about our work, please visit our website, http://www.asa.org.uk/.
Advertising Standards Authority
Eye is Bloke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you for your prompt and detailed response.
I acknowledge that my concerns are the same as those already considered by the Council and I was hoping that you could reassure me that the Council were aware of the evidence I set out in my correspondence when they made their decision.
I would seek your reassurance on three points as follow:
1. When the Council decided that the advert made no direct claims regarding the likelihood of boys or men in particular being abusive, were they aware that the advertiser does make direct claims regarding the likelihood of boys or men in particular being abusive?
This is explained clearly in the introduction section of the Disrespect No Body Discussion Guide which states that:
The adverts we use from the ‘Disrespect NoBody’ campaign as discussion starters within this guide focus on the male characters as the abuser and the female characters as the victim [because] evidence consistently shows that most abuse in relationships is committed by men3,
This claim is based on Crown Prosecution Data and is contradicted by Home Office Data on Partner Abuse and the main NSPCC research that informed the campaign.
2. When the Council made the conclusion that it was unlikely to be seen as sexist were they aware that the majority of people who have posted on the campaign’s twitter hashtag did so specifically to complain about the advert’s sexist message?
3. When the Council made the conclusion that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, were they aware that, to date, almost 1,000 people have signed a petition of complaint to Parliament about the advert?
Thank you in advance for your assistance with this.