Advertising under control

The ad has already done its job by creating much greater public awareness of the Opium brand. By creating such a fuss, the public has played into the hands of the advertising industry. I do not find this ad offensive, but can understand why some people do. George Richards, UK I think the poster is GREAT!! I nearly crashed my car, but it's still brightened up my day! John Gavey, UK It's the only sensible decision the ASA has ever made. Can you imagine the same ad with a man lying naked on his back with his legs wide open? The answer is a resounding NO. Women are never going to gain respect in the boardroom as long as this "porn chic" is allowed on our billboards. It's got nothing to do with British prudishness – it's an issue of decency and self-respect.

Kate, UK A woman lying in the street in such a pose would be arrested for indecent exposure. So why allow an advert to show a picture of this instead? RP, UK I think it is pretty ridiculous that something like this is banned. If you go to the Tate Modern, you will find far more explicit material, on full view to children; do we ban this too? When will people realise that the 19th century is long past and that times have changed – some people may not like it, but there's no escaping the inevitability for now.

Phil, UK Modern Advertising and its ethics: Lavish TV commercials and glossy mail shots may be the staples of modern advertising – but for those without deep corporate pockets, shock tactics are more appealing. Pressure groups, charities and governments have employed graphic imagery and blunt slogans to highlight everything from animal cruelty to the dangers of smoking. However, when it comes to posters and magazine adverts, the public usually tends to stomach shocking and even gory imagery if it's for a good cause. The ASA says people are less likely to complain about ads depending on who issues them and they are far more forgiving of charities.

The ASA points to the 1998 campaign by the Commission for Racial Equality, which was it self branded 'racist' and 'offensive'; shocking adverts risk alienating the very people they want to reach. The debate over the merits of these ads also tends to obscure the issues they were intended to highlight. Many companies behind advertisements work on the principle that the whole point of advertising is to be 'eye-catching', regardless of the ethics involved.

Advertising under control: The majority of complaints to the ASA are about misleading advertising (except broadcast advertising, which is responsibility of the Independent Radio Authority (ITC) or the Radio Authority); therefore stopping dishonest or untruthful ads is the main business of the ASA. In 1961, the industry established the ASA under an independent chairman, to adjudicate on complaints about advertising that appeared to British Code of Advertising. 40 years on, advertising in the UK complies with the codes. Because the industry is committed to making self-regulation effective, adverts that break the Codes can be withdrawn without resort to legal bans.

Complaints from the public are resolved through the ASA; advertisers who flout the rules can be denied access to newspapers, magazines, and poster sites, direct mail or the Internet. Since 1988, self-regulation has been backed up by statutory powers under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations (CMAR). The ASA can refer advertisers who refuse to cooperate with the self-regulatory system to the Office of Fair Trading for legal action. Television and radio have been controlled through the Broadcasting Act since the start of 1955. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is responsible for the CAP Code. The Codes have sought to protect children from commercial exploitation and the Government considers the self-regulatory system to be effective in the interests of consumers. The system also has a high level of recognition from the public and is important to consumer confidence in advertising.

I have no personal objection to the Opium advert, although anyone, whether they think the ad is offensive or not, will admit that it is sexually suggestive. The majority of the population are quite positive towards the Opium advert, but some feel that the advert had just gone too far. However, a similar proportion felt that some people are just too sensitive about the advert. Issues highlighted that younger people tended to be less sensitive in relation to 'traditionally' offensive areas, such as sexual images and there seemed to be differences in their views of images that caused offence. It was clear that the reactions from the random samples taken in this report, that the location and type of media were crucial, with particular concern expressed as to whether children would see it and whether groups likely to be offended (such as religious/cultural groups) would see it.