Discussing saucy topics in ads with sensitivity

What’s awkward, mildly uncomfortable to view but important to advertise?

Sexual health ads can be embarrassing to see on TV especially in a family setting. Advertisers are allowed to advertise sexual health products and services, but they need to make sure their content is appropriate for the time and station it’s advertised on.

The Ad Standards Community Panel recently looked at an ad for a men’s health service which promoted the discreet delivery of premature ejaculation treatments. The ad was shown during the coverage of the Tokyo Olympics and used the metaphor of a ‘false start’ during a running race to deliver their message in an equally discreet way.

Most of the complaints received by Ad Standards were from parents who felt it was inappropriate to advertise this service during a program that kids were likely to watch.

The Panel determined that the ad didn’t breach Section 2.4 (sex, sexuality or nudity) of the AANA Code of Ethics. The creative content didn’t show any explicit or inappropriate imagery, and didn’t detail the sexual nature of the issue it was describing. Overall, the Panel considered the ad treated the issue of sexual health with sensitivity towards the broad audience.

So, what can advertisers learn from this?

If you’re dealing with a sensitive issue such as sexual health, remember to:

  • consider the audience – you never know who might be watching
  • be responsible with your creative approach – especially if the ad is shown during family viewing times; and
  • discuss the issue with sensitivity – not everyone feels comfortable seeing ads for these types of products and services.

If you’re ever unsure if your ad hits the spot (we’re talking about the advertising rules), you can run it past our team of experts via the Ad Standards Copy Advice Service. We‘ll provide feedback on any unpublished material and flag potential issues that might be raised by the community. 

Read the Community Panel's full determination on the Ad Standards case reports page.