UK network Channel 4 has been criticised for a new bus advertisement that uses non-consenting passengers.
The ad is for the long-running dating show Naked Attraction, in which someone looking for love meets a number of contestants vying for a date. However, the twist is that the contestants have more of their naked body (but not face) revealed throughout the show. The person seeking a date then has to also get naked to make their final selection.
In the bus ad, stickers with phrases like ‘loves Naked Attraction‘ and ‘loves being naked’ point to unsuspecting passengers.
Many of the criticisms stem from the fact that sexual assault on buses is a widespread issue. Indeed, a YouGov survey released in January of 2020 fouond that over half of women surveyed had been sexually harassed on London public transport.
Issues with the ad were pointed out by writer Tracy King on Twitter.
Her original Tweet (pictured above) said, “what the hell is this creepy bus ad? You can’t just label non-consenting passengers like that. Does @Channel4 not know how many sexual assaults take place on buses?”
“Passengers shouldn’t have to navigate ‘am I the butt of a joke on my way to work today’.”
If you do go down that route(master), you absolutely should not under any circumstance make the joke a sexualised one. I don’t know why that isn’t @tfl and @global policy already but it should be. Passengers can’t consent to this stuff.
— Tracy King (@tkingdot) August 30, 2021
The bulk of commentors on King’s post agreed.
One wrote, “literally just saw that ad for the first time and wondered how it got through clearances”.
Another tagged Channel 4 and wrote, “please don’t just take this ad down. Look at the culture in your PR team, because they clearly don’t have the proper connection to your customer base or a diverse outlook.”
Many pointed out the inappropriateness of running the ad when children use the buses too.
High school teacher here. This ad was on one of our school buses this morning. You know, the buses filled with school kids.
— babyalmac (@babyalmac) August 30, 2021
Think I fixed it pic.twitter.com/rgnidEY7CI
— Andy Kist #BLM (@Andy_Kist) August 30, 2021
While a handful of commentators defended the ad, some arguing it had been taken out of context, it has now been pulled in a number of jurisdictions.
The official Transport for London Twitter account replied to King’s original tweet.
Hi Tracy. Thanks for your feedback. We have reviewed the ad campaign and decided that it should not continue to run on our bus network. It will be removed as soon as practicable, and we will continue our efforts to ensure public transport is safe for everyone. ^Paul
— Transport for London 😷 (@TfL) August 31, 2021
However, the ad was not just run in London, with reports of it displayed on buses across the UK.
Reading Buses – a company based in Reading, a large town in South-Eastern England – responded to a complaint on Twitter by confirming it would remove any remaining ads.
Lothian Buses in Edinburgh, Scotland also responded to tweets, saying it had passed on the feedback to its media partner. It then confirmed that the ads would be removed.
According to The Guardian, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority received 26 complaints regarding the ad, and is now evaluating the complaints.
Channel 4 has yet to speak out about the ad.
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