These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Advertising Standards Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.
Toyota Corolla - keys
Complaint from: 216 viewers
An advertisement for Toyota Corolla showed a number of couples at a 'key' party. The women were selecting partners by picking car keys randomly from a glass jar.
One of the women was noticeably heavier than the others. The men appeared to be uncomfortable with the idea that she might choose them. However, when the woman picked the keys to the Toyota Corolla, they all stood up. The line 'Corolla. A car to be proud of' appeared on screen.
The majority of complainants believed this to be a negative portrayal of overweight women. They saw the humour of the advertisement resting on the fact that the men found the woman unattractive purely because of her size. A number also argued that it was irresponsible - in the light of concerns about excessive slimming and eating disorders - to imply that it was necessary to be slim to be attractive. Some complainants also objected to the sexual innuendo implicit in the subject matter, particularly at times when young children could see it.
The BACC had approved the advertisement with an 'ex-kids' restriction, meaning that it could not be shown around programmes made specifically for children. It considered that the woman was attractive, was not shown as being vulnerable, and was presented in a positive light.
Toyota said that it had intended to advertise in a light-hearted manner but not in such a way as to cause offence to viewers. It had chosen a larger woman for the role to 'broaden the appeal' of the advertisement, but had not intended to discriminate against overweight women. It reported that research across a cross-section of the public had not shown the advertisement to be offensive. Both Toyota and the BACC were concerned that messages encouraging people to complain to the ITC had been posted on a website and that a number of complaints had come via this route.
The ITC noted that a minority of the complaints seemed to originate from this website. The majority of complaints, however, did not appear to be orchestrated.
The ITC could see how the scene could come across as discourteous or rude, but also noted that the woman was presented as attractive and confident. On balance, it considered that the scene was essentially lighthearted and unlikely to be capable of any identifiable harm or to cause deep offence. It considered the 'ex-kids' restriction was sufficient. For these reasons, the ITC did not find grounds to uphold the complaints.
Complaints not upheld.