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Advertising Standards spanks companies over Net porn

Police worries and women in bikinis offering RAM

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The Advertising Standards Authority has come down heavily on two companies using porn and sex as a means to sell their wares. Nothing new there, you say. But the ASA believes Emap and Inter-Mediates have gone too far.

First of all, a joke email sent by Emap magazine MaxPower - a laddish car mag - was deemed to have "caused undue fear and distress". It was semi-disguised as an official document and was titled "RIPA. Legal Document. Please read. Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. Offence no.323 - Internet Perversion."

The email, drawing reference to the widely criticised RIP Act, accused the recipient of accessing "material of a violent, sexually explicit or immoral nature". It then said details had been sent to their local police station and they would be in touch. It then offered a URL which it said you could click to appeal against the charges. The URL led to an ad for a MaxPower car show.

MaxPower said it only sent the email to registered users of its Web site (50,000 of them) and that since they were all young men, they figured they'd get the joke. It did admit that it had removed people's details from its mailing list when they had complained, however, suggesting the company has been picking up email addresses from elsewhere.

The email was in fact forwarded all over the Internet, in much the same as the mag's previous joke in which it said you had been caught speeding and you should click for photographic evidence. Of course it led to another MaxPower ad.

We reckon that if MaxPower had just used email address from registered users on its site, there wouldn't be any complaints. Anyway, it was harmless fun and anyone that went into palpitations over it has obviously got something to hide :-).

The other complaint upheld is of a far, far more serious nature however.

Inter-Mediates was rightly found to have produced a "gratuitous and offensive" ad. Inter-Mediates, as you may know, is an IT supplies Web site. Its ad in Computer Shopper was headlined: "How low? Amazing RAM prices!"

It then showed two women. One was in a bikini and lifting the strap of her bikini bottoms and the other had on a pair of bikini bottoms but no top and was holding her arms over her breasts.

It is possibly the weakest ever link we've seen between a product and some naked women and we applaud it for bringing us closer to our Europeans cousins who will stick a bouncing woman in just a bra in front of any product whatsoever.

The ASA didn't agree however and Inter-Mediates has promised not to do it again. Apart from in its own internal magazine anyway. That's the spirit. ®

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