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Unilever snack brand Pot Noodle has narrowly escaped censure from the ad watchdog, despite two complaints from members of the public that this ad was "offensive" and "encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment towards transsexual people".
The ad, created by Mother, features a man named Brian, who also happens to be a WAG. That is a "real lady of leisure," after marrying a footballer. The character is shown in a tracksuit, two different dresses, a swimsuit and 'manspreading' in a tutu.
The complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority challenged whether the ad was offensive and breached the Broadcasting Code, because it condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment towards transsexual people. In response to the complaints Unilever said it believed the ad used "a cheeky and humorous tone" that was commonly used in Pot Noodle advertising.
The FMCG company said the ad depicted a man dressed up as a woman to add a humorous twist to the narrative and to caricature the Wag lifestyle and that the ad was not intended to reference real life or transsexual people.
The broadcast clearance body Clearcast said it believed the character Brian, "did not reflect or portray a trans individual, rather they believed the ad made clear that Brian was a self-identifying man".
Unilever added that the character, Brian, was shown in situations that were generally regarded as enjoyable. They also said the character was not in a situation where he was the victim of discriminatory behaviour or treatment.
The ASA considered the ad made clear that Brian was a self-identifying man who sought an easy life that could be achieved through the lifestyle of a Wag.
As such, it considered viewers were likely to interpret the portrayal as a light-hearted mockery of Wag culture rather than transsexual people.
Although the ASA acknowledged that some people might find the ad distasteful, it considered it was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence, or condone and encourage harmful and discriminatory behaviour and treatment towards transsexual people and so did not uphold either complaint.
D.O.P: Sebastian Pfaffenbichler
CLIENT: POT NOODLE
PROD. CO.UK: RADICAL media
PROD. CO.SP: MANIC BUTTERFLY PRODUCTIONS