Background

The ASA had previously investigated whether an ad for an adult Golly costume on www.joke.co.uk was likely to cause serious offence.  They considered that although advertisers were entitled to sell any product whose sale was legal, the Code required marketers to ensure that ads did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race. The ASA noted that the website had a section for "Bad Taste and Shocking Fancy Dress Costumes" that listed a number of products described as "inappropriate" but noted that the Golly costume did not feature on that page.   The ASA concluded that the ad must not appear again in its current form and told Abscissa.Com Ltd t/a Jokers Masquerade to take care to avoid causing serious or widespread offence in future.   

The CAP Compliance Team contacted Abscissa.Com Ltd t/a Jokers Masquerade regarding an advertisement for an adult Golly Costume on their website www.joke.co.uk. 

Abscissa.Com Ltd t/a Jokers Masquerade did not respond to the CAP Compliance Team. The website www.joke.co.uk continues to feature the costume in the “Stag Do” section of the website.

Because of the non-compliance of Abscissa.Com Ltd t/a Jokers Masquerade, we took the decision to place its details on the ASA section of the website on 3 February 2017. Its details shall remain in place until such time as Abscissa.Com Ltd t/a Jokers Masquerade has ensured that the costume is targeted appropriately on www.joke.co.uk to ensure compliance with the CAP Code.

Summary of ASA ruling

Summary of ASA ruling:

A website offering fancy dress costumes, www.joke.co.uk, included an ad for an "Adult Golly Costume" that featured various images of a man wearing the product. Underneath the images, text under the heading "Info" stated "Our amazing Golly Costume is a fantastic recreation of the popular rag doll character and is ideal if you are looking for a memorable outfit!

The complainant, who believed the depiction of the Golly Costume was racist, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious offence.

Abscissa.Com Ltd t/a Jokers Masquerade (Abscissa) said it was not their intention to offend. They said they appreciated that there were individual costumes on their portfolio that might be perceived as insensitive or provocative to some, but that was the nature of fancy dress.

The ASA noted that the product was featured on a website selling humorous fancy dress costumes, but was not otherwise targeted.  The ASA noted that the website had a section for "Bad Taste and Shocking Fancy Dress Costumes" that listed a number of products described as "inappropriate" but noted that the Golly costume did not feature on that page.

Although advertisers were entitled to sell any product whose sale was legal, the Code required marketers to ensure that ads did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race. The ASA noted that the ad featured an image of a person in a full body costume with black skin, curly hair, a large striped bow tie and red jacket.  The ASA considered that the image had connotations with the nineteenth-century "Golliwog" character and the negative racial stereotypes that the character represented. They therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence


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