ASA raps Virgin Media TV over ginger ad

Wednesday, December 16 2009, 11:30 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rapped Virgin Media Television over an advert for Dating In The Dark which implied that people with ginger hair are unattractive.

Run in Metro, the press advert carried the slogan, "How do you spot a ginger in the dark?" along with the strapline, "Looks or personality, who wins?"

The ASA subsequently received three complaints that the ad was offensive to people with ginger hair because it suggested that they are not attractive.

In response, Virgin Media TV claimed that the ad was not meant to cause offence but rather reflect the actual "comments and emotions" of participants on the Living TV show.

The firm highlighted other ads for the programme, which carried slogans such as, "When the lights come on I just hope I haven't been kissing Shrek" and, "He says he works in radio. I just hope he doesn't have the face for it".

As all the remarks were made by actual participants on the show, Virgin Media TV argued that they were not reflective of its own views. The company also noted that Metro had not received any complaints directly about the ads.

However, the ASA ruled that the advert did not make it clear that the ginger hair comment was from a participant on the programme. The official body therefore identified a high probability that people would view the ad as a "suggestion that people with ginger hair were unattractive" and so it found a clear breach of the Advertising Code.

"We considered the ad was unlikely to be interpreted to be lighthearted in tone and was instead likely to be seen as prejudicial against people with ginger hair. We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence," said the ASA.

"The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Virgin to ensure that their future marketing communications did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence."