Poundland's controversial 'naughty' elf Christmas ad campaign banned

7 February 2018, 07:45

A controversial innuendo-laden Christmas advertising campaign from Poundland has been banned.

The retailer's "Elf Behaving Badly" campaign has been deemed irresponsible and likely to cause widespread offence by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Poundland posted a series of images on its Twitter and Facebook pages of an elf toy in a number of sexualised poses, including playing strip poker and sitting in a tub with naked dolls.

The retailer made headlines in the run-up to Christmas when tea company Twinings accused it of "misusing" its product after Poundland tweeted a picture of an elf dangling a Twinings teabag over a female doll, simulating a sex act.

The message was accompanied by the caption: "How do you take your tea? One lump or two?"

A later message showed the same pose but with a nondescript teabag and the caption: "Spot the difference."

Another ad showed the toy elf playing a game of strip poker with three unclothed dolls and the message: "Joker, joker. I really want to play poker."

A total of 85 complaints were received by the ASA, with complainants saying the ads were offensive for their depiction of toy characters and other items in sexualised manner and were unsuitable to appear where children could see them.

Poundland argued the innuendos used would not have been understood by children, adding that Twitter and Facebook had policies preventing those under 13 from creating accounts.

The retailer said a "large number" of people found the campaign funny, engaging and "in line with what it meant to be British", adding the intention was not to offend anyone.

The campaign helped the firm achieve its most successful December since it started trading in 1990.

In its ruling, the ASA noted that the campaign was based on a toy elf, which resembled the popular children's Christmas tradition known as "Elf on the Shelf" from the book of the same name.

It said that Poundland's Facebook and Twitter pages were not age restricted and could therefore be viewed by anyone.

Other images in the campaign, including a pair of breasts drawn on a car windscreen, the elf beside a drawing of a penis-shaped tree and the elf waving a vibrator, were obvious sexual references, the ASA said.

The regulator said: "We considered these ads were irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence by depicting a child's toy in relation to such sexual acts, therefore breaching the code."

Poundland has been told the ads must not appear again and that it must ensure that its advertising is presented with "a sense of responsibility" and in a way that "did not cause serious or widespread offence".

In a statement on behalf of its "naughty" elf, Poundland said: "Britain's the home of saucy postcards, Carry On films and panto, so I'm sad the ASA found my double entendres hard to swallow.

"At least it's only 84 people who had a sense of humour failure compared to the tens of thousands who got the joke and liked and shared my posts online."