Unilever slammed for ‘offensive’ Facebook noodle advert

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

The advertising watchdog upheld complaints about one advert in Unilever's Piri Piri Pot Noodle Facebook campaign but rejected two others
The advertising watchdog upheld complaints about one advert in Unilever's Piri Piri Pot Noodle Facebook campaign but rejected two others

Related tags: Advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that Unilever cannot use one of its Piri Piri Pot Noodle online adverts in its current form and ordered the firm not to use “offensive images” in future.

Its ruling concerned an advert that appeared on Unilever’s Pot Noodle Facebook page. It showed a female model in a bikini next to a picture of a Pot Noodle with the text: “Phwarr, is it me or is it getting hot in here? Hot off. Which one gets you hotter?”

The advertising watchdog noted the ad featured an image of a woman wearing red knickers and a revealing red bra and that she was “posed in a provocative way”.

While the ASA noted the intention of the ad was a tongue-in-cheek play on the word ‘hottie’, it upheld complaints against the advert.

“We considered the presentation of the woman in a sexual pose and the blatant comparison with the food product was crass and degrading and therefore likely to cause serious offence to some visitors to the Pot Noodle Facebook page,”​ it ruled.

‘Crass and degrading’

Complaints against two other Pot Noodle Facebook adverts were rejected.

One concerned a video advert featuring a young man sitting on a bus, eating a Pot Noodle and struggling to cope with its spiciness. While eating, he noticed a young woman next to a pole who was looking at him seductively.

The man and woman started dancing before the woman took her top off. The man then realised that the Pot Noodle pot was empty and the woman was revealed to be a shabbily dressed man.

Accompanying the video was the voice-over: “Dreaming of something a bit hotter? With new Piri Piri chicken flavour it’s easy to peel the top off a hottie.”

The advert concluded with an image of two Pot Noodle lids, which were arranged to suggest a woman’s  breasts, along with the text ‘Peel the top off a hottie’.

The watchdog ruled that, while the tone of the ad was mildly sexual, it considered that the interaction between the characters was not salacious and that the female character was not presented in a sexist or degrading way.

“We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious offence to those visiting the Pot Noodle Facebook page,”​ it said.

The third complaint featured an online game. It showed a cartoon image of the young woman and shabbily dressed man from the video, standing in Pot Noodle containers. In the centre of the ad, there was a picture of two Pot Noodle lids, arranged in the same way as they were in the video, alongside the text ‘Peel the top off a hottie’.

‘Puerile rather than sexually explicit’

“Although we considered some consumers may have found the ad distasteful, we considered the images were likely to be seen as puerile rather than sexually explicit and considered that the ad was unlikely to cause serious offence to those visiting the Pot Noodle Facebook page,”​ ruled the ASA.

None of the adverts condoned the removal of a woman’s clothing without her consent or suggested such an act was acceptable, it added.

More than 20 people complained the adverts were offensive, sexist and degrading to women.

Unilever argued that the adverts followed its typical tongue-in-cheek style for Pot Noodle advertising. The adverts were based on a comparison between a spicy product and an attractive person, in this case female, both capable of being called ‘hottie’, it added.

They said the word ‘hottie’ was in common use, and the firm believed the phrase would not cause deep or widespread offence.

The target demographic audience for Pot Noodle was 18 to 24 years of age and Unilever believed the adverts were targeted accordingly. The adverts did not appear in broadcast media or advertised anywhere outside of the internet, it added.

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1 comment

Are we too PC?

Posted by Lee Thompson,

Really, the number of complaints against adverts on line that people have to search out!

Are we not getting too politically correct these days?

No wonder you can't get the slapstick postcards at the seaside anymore - the type of humour we all loved as kids.

With all the serious issues in the world today, this really doesn't come close to being a serious issue.

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