Tesco Mobile ads to replace bad words with food names have been banned.
The Advertising Standards Authority said that ads in national newspapers, Twitter posts and outdoor posters used the words “shiitake” and “pistachio” as a reference to profanity in a way that was “likely to cause widespread and serious insult”.
“What nonsense” he wrote on the paid Twitter post, seen in February, with large text and a picture of a mushroom next to it.
Then the mushroom flipped over to reveal the text “shiitake”, replacing the word “shit”.
The line below reads: “Did you know that large mobile networks increase your bills?”
“They’re taking pistachios” appeared in full-page newspaper ads in large letters, followed by an image of a nut.
A digital exterior label reads “For f”, followed by three images of pasta and the text “For f”. The three pictures of pasta are then wrapped to reveal the text “For the love of fettuccine”.
The ASA received 52 complaints that the ads were offensive because the words “shiitake,” “pistachio,” and “fettuccine” refer to an expletive.
Some complainants objected to the appropriateness of displaying advertisements in places where children could see them.
Tesco Mobile said it did not use any offensive words or images, and as such believes the ads are unlikely to cause serious or widespread abuse.
The ASA said the referenced words “are too likely to be offensive that they should generally not be used or referred to in advertisements, whether or not they are used in a sarcastic manner.”
The agency added, “While we considered that the word ‘fettuccine’ was not closely associated with swear words, we considered that people would interpret the phrase ‘for love’… to refer specifically to the phrase ‘f***’ for.”
“We have deemed ‘f***’ a word to be too offensive in general that it should not be used or discussed in advertisements.”
The association said it was also likely that parents wanted their children to avoid such swear words or obvious innuendos.
He ruled that ads should no longer appear, adding: “Tesco Mobile has told us to avoid using words or phrases that could cause serious abuse, such as avoiding references to profanity.”
A Tesco Mobile spokeswoman said: “We are truly sorry for any wrongdoing we cause. We know how frustrated consumers are when they notice a mid-term increase in their mobile phone bill and we reflect their frustration – and ours – in these ads.
“We pride ourselves on delivering supermarket value to our mobile customers, so we used a pun.”
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