The advertisement depicted a close up computer-generated and portrait image of a person’s lower face and neck featuring a fully extended tongue. The image of a small book can be seen placed towards the centre of the tongue.
On one side of the head, text stated “Discover the most mind-altering book of the year” while on the other side text stated “An Post IRISH BOOK AWARDS #READERSWANTED”
The complainant referred to the problem of drugs in Ireland and said that the advertisement in his view implied an acceptance of mind-altering substances. The complainant considered the advertisement to be grossly inappropriate and in poor taste.
The advertisers said that their campaign ran across various media and that across all these platforms they ran a variety of different creatives. They said that the overall campaign theme/manifesto was “readers wanted” and the idea was that they would show how books could transport people to other worlds, providing them with (strictly legal) mind altering experiences. As a result of the weight of the campaign and the variety of creative deployed, they considered that they had communicated this “readers wanted” message across the totality of the campaign.
They said their campaign was designed to be eye-catching, light-hearted and a little provocative in order to position the power of books and reading in front of new audiences in new locations and catch their attention, in places where they may not be expecting to encounter such messages. They said that from observing both the style of animation and the scenarios depicted the campaign was not meant to be taken literally and that all scenarios were meant to be metaphorical.
In the case of this specific image, they said it promoted the benefit of books and reading to broaden our minds and perhaps alter people’s thinking. They accepted that it was a deliberately arresting image, however, it was never their intention to promote anything other than reading, least of all drug-taking. They said that the entire point of piece was to present books as a legal and safe mind altering substance in contrast to other illegal pursuits.
Complaint Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted the image was a part of larger campaign which promoted the benefits of reading books and associated experiences. They also noted the images depicted were not meant to be taken literally and that all scenarios were meant to be metaphorical.
In assessing the specific advertisement complained about, the Committee noted the Code requirement that compliance with the Code is assessed in the light of a marketing communication’s probably effect when taken as a whole and in context. The Committee noted that it was clear that the advertisement was related to the An Post Irish Book Awards. They also noted the headline “Readers Wanted” and the hastag #Readerswanted. The phrase “Discover the most mind-altering books of the year” alongside the image of the book on the tongue while somewhat provocative, did not in the Committee’s view imply an encouragement to consume illegal substances.
In the circumstances the Committee concluded the advertising was not in breach of the Code.
No further action required.