As you may well know, e-cigarettes are strongly regulated in the UK in regards to both the TRPR and also CAP codes. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK advertising codes and one of their main duties regarding vaping products is to ensure they are not marketed towards people under the age of 18.
These CAP Codes are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who have recently had to step in and ban three billboards promoting a UK vaping brand. The main billboard in question featured a cartoon figure of Santa Claus vaping besides the caption “All Santa wants for Christmas”. The other billboards followed similar themes with one featuring a gingerbread man and the other displaying a Christmas Elf.
Three complaints were filed to the ASA regarding the Santa Claus billboard, claiming that this advertisement was not suitable due to its appeal to under 18s. This led to an investigation by the board, who assessed the promotional material and deliberated whether these may appeal to minors.
The Santa Claus cartoon in question was depicted wearing a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off, revealing a Rudolph tattoo on his arm. The defending party argued that these added details were enough to:
Appeal to the spirit and culture of a target audience of adults, with an ‘off the wall’, fun and alternative advertising campaign.
While the Advertising Standards Authority acknowledged that the billboards were not intended to appeal to those aged under 18 years old, they concluded that:
The use of cartoons or cartoon-like imagery had the potential to appeal to under-18s.
Ultimately, it was deemed that the billboard breached a certain CAP Code. The ASA informed the company responsible that they must be more socially responsible in the future with regards to their advertising and ordered that the ads must not be seen again in their current form.
Was the ASA right to ban these billboards? Let us know what you think in the comments below.