Amazon rapped for c-word Christmas card

20 Mar 2013
Amazon

Amazon falls foul of the advertising watchdog for a colorful Christmas card listing

Amazon has once again landed itself in trouble for selling offensive products on behalf of third-party retailers.

Last month, the company was forced to apologise after it was caught selling T-shirts bearing the slogan "Keep Calm and Rape On". The shirts were sold by a third-party retailer that claimed the slogans were automatically generated by a computer algorithm.

Now, the retailer has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority for selling a Christmas card that bore the message: "YOU'RE A C*** SORRY, I MEANT TO SAY 'MERRY CHRISTMAS" – without the asterisks on the expletive.

The card was sold by the charmingly named, third-party retailer Smellyourmum.com, and both the retailer and Amazon challenged whether the card was offensive, and indeed whether the ASA had any jurisdiction over internet product listings.

"Not offensive"

"Amazon said it was confident that the display of the product image was compliant with the CAP [advertising] Code," the ASA's adjudication states.

According to Amazon, "the card was not offensive, aggressive or lewd in its message. The wording of the card did not target any particular group, nor was it likely to cause offence to any particular race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. It was meant as a bit of light-hearted, irreverent fun.

Amazon "acknowledged that the humour might not be to everybody's taste, but considered that the subjective values of a small minority who might find it distasteful should not dictate a product's availability or the method of its advertisement to the wider public".

That defence brokered no sympathy from the ASA, which not only argued that product listings fell within its remit, but that the Christmas card breached its code.

"We acknowledged that the wording of the card did not target any particular group, and also acknowledged that in the context of an online shop it was likely that in the majority of cases the ad would be viewed by adults rather than by children," the ASA ruled.

"Nonetheless, we noted that CAP guidance on language advised advertisers that consumer research showed that the use of the word 'c***' was so likely to offend that it should not be used at all in marketing communications even when it was relevant to the name of the product."

Amazon was told not to run the "ad" again, and Smellyourmum.com was "told to take care to avoid causing serious or widespread offence in future".

It doesn't look like Smellyourmum.com has taken the friendly advice. Its website favicon shows a hand flicking the middle finger, while the website's slogan reads "new s*** to wind people up with".

Meanwhile, a search for "c***" on Amazon returns uncensored results for the "C*** Colouring Book" and a CD called "F****** A" by a band called Anal C***. Looks like the ASA's going to have its work cut out.

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