‘What a load of shiitake’: Tesco ads banned for alluding to offensive language

An advertising campaign for Tesco Mobile which used the names of foods as substitutes for expletives has been banned by The Advertising Standards Authority.
People objected that the adverts were displayed in places where they could be seen by children.
// Tesco Mobile’s ad campaign which used the names of foods as substitutes for expletives has been banned
// The ASA said it received 52 complaints that the ads were offensive

An advertising campaign for Tesco Mobile which used the names of foods as substitutes for expletives has been banned by The Advertising Standards Authority.

The adverts, which were spread across newspapers, Twitter posts and outdoor posters used words including “shiitake” and “pistachio” to replace swear words.

However the Advertising Standards Authority said they were likely to cause “serious and widespread offence”.


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The supermarket has since apologised and explained that it was trying to portray customer frustration.

One advert, a sponsored Twitter post seen in February, featured an animation with text saying: “What a load of shiitake”. An image of a mushroom covering the last three letters was seen to roll away.

Newspaper adverts criticised competitors’ price increases and said: “They’re taking the pistachio”.

Tesco Mobile advertising campaign offensive, watchdog rules - BBC News

And a digital outdoor poster displayed an animation with the slogan: “For fettucine’s sake”. Three images of pasta covered all but the letter F in “fettucine” before rolling away to reveal the slogan in full.

The ASA said it had received 52 complaints that the ads were offensive because they alluded to swear words, with some people objecting that they were displayed in places where they could be seen by children.

Tesco Mobile and BBH launch tongue-in-cheek campaign

Tesco Mobile initially defended its advertising on the grounds that they had not used any offensive words or imagery.

But the ASA said the words they were alluding to were “so likely to offend that they should not generally be used or alluded to in advertising, regardless of whether they were used in a tongue-in-cheek manner”.

A Tesco Mobile spokeswoman said: “We’re really sorry for any offence caused. We know the frustration that consumers face when they notice their mobile phone bill has gone up mid-contract and we were reflecting their frustration – and ours – in these ads.

“We’re proud to offer our mobile customers supermarket value, and so we used a play on words relating to food products.”

Tesco Mobile and BBH launch tongue-in-cheek campaign

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