Law firm’s ballet dancers advert was “mild innuendo” and not sexist, advertising watchdog rules

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12 October 2016

Advert: from ballet dancers to rugby players

Advert: from ballet dancers to rugby players

An advert for family law services featuring the torsos of four female ballet dancers with their arms crossed over the chests with the tagline ‘Protect your assets’, was “mild innuendo” and not offensive, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled.

An advert placed by Dorset firm Humphries Kirk in the Bournemouth Daily Echo was sexist and objectified women, according to the complaint received by the ASA.

The text below ‘Protect your assets’ stated: “Our solicitors are on hand to give you expert advice about divorce, finances, prenups, property disputes and children issues.”

The firm has another advert in the campaign featuring four muddied rugby players with their hands over their groins. They are both still running.

In its response, Humphries Kirk told the ASA that the intention of the ballet dancers advert “was to cause a ‘double take’ and to create a gentle innuendo, which they believed depicted the firm in a more human and approachable way”.

It continued: “Humphries Kirk said the ad did not contain any type of nudity or focused on the dancers’ bodies in a sexual manner. They also asserted that the ad did not show the ballet dancers in a demeaning, subservient or exploitative way, or use stereotypes, given that the people depicted were real ballet dancers and were shown doing something they had volunteered to do.

“They explained that part of the reason the dancers’ faces were omitted was that people in the local area might recognise the dancers and they wanted to preserve their anonymity. They also believed that recognition of the dancers might detract from the essence of the image.

“Humphries Kirk believed a reasonable person would see the ad as light hearted rather than offensive, and they believed that the innuendo was neither vulgar nor degrading to women, and was not linked with sexual activity. They further stated that the reaction from all participants was entirely positive and they had not received any complaints or adverse comments in response to the campaign.”

The newspaper’s take was that the advert was “demurely executed, the presentation was respectful of women and the image used was acceptable”. It said that, whilst there was a slight edge to the wording used in that it could be considered as ‘laddish’, it did not believe that it could be taken as offensive.

In its finding, the ASA said the dancers were not depicted in a “sexually suggestive or explicit pose, the ad was not sexual in tone and did not contain any form of nudity”.

The focus of the advert, it said, was on the balletic pose and the dance formation, rather than on a specific part of their bodies.

“We considered that the pose held by the dancers were likely to be seen as graceful and typical of ballet poses, but noted that it could be interpreted by some readers as a visual innuendo of the phrase ‘Protect your assets’, in that that the dancers were protective of, or defensive about, their bodies, or specifically their chest area.

“Although we acknowledged that some might find the reference to women’s chests or breasts as ‘assets’ distasteful, we considered that the reference in the ad was not used in a salacious or lewd manner, but rather it was a mild innuendo.

“Because we considered that the ad did not portray the ballet dancers in a sexualised, degrading or indecent manner, and that any innuendo was light hearted, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

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Legal Futures Blog

Joint (ad)ventures in the legal sector

Nigel Wallis lo res

We all know that nothing in life is certain. As the actor, director and philosopher Clint Eastwood once said: “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” He also said he’d tried being reasonable and didn’t like it. They should teach this kind of philosophy in law school. One thing in life is reasonably certain though. If you’re a law firm worth your salt, at some point you will be approached by another entity (most probably a work introducer) with a whizzy idea to ‘partner’ with you to ‘help you accelerate your growth’. In commercial speak this means, ‘we’d like to keep feeding you work but we’d also like to share in your profits’. The arrangement may be pitched to you as a joint venture – a win-win no less.

March 27th, 2017