Poundland’s online ad campaign featuring a toy elf repeatedly posing in a ‘sexual manner’ has been banned following dozens of complaints from angry parents.
The firm ran a ‘#ElfBehavingBad’ social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter which included a series of images of the child’s toy in sex poses.
But watchdogs ordered it not to use the ads again after 85 people complained about the pre Christmas campaign.
A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) said: ‘We concluded the ads, which depicted the toy figures in a sexualised manner and appeared in an untargeted medium where they could be seen by children, were irresponsible and were likely to cause serious or widespread offence.’
He added: ‘The ads must not appear again in their current form.
‘We told Poundland Ltd to ensure that their advertising was presented with a sense of responsibility and did not cause serious or widespread offence.’
In its response to the complaints, Poundland told the ASA that a Twitter poll of 12,000 showed 82 per cent supported the campaign.
It also argued under-13s were prevented from creating Twitter and Facebook accounts, so weren’t likely to see the ads.
But the ASA spokesman said: ‘They stated a large number of people found the campaign to be humorous, engaging, and in line with what it meant to be British.
‘They stated they did not intend to offend anyone.’
The campaign was based on the ‘Elf on a Shelf’ Christmas tradition – but ASA chiefs say Poundland’s social media pages were not age restricted.
Another advert shared on Twitter showed the toy elf holding a sex toy next to a Darth Vader doll holding a lightsaber, along with the caption ‘Buzz off Darth, my lightsaber is bigger than yours’.
Referring to one ad in the campaign, the ASA spokesman said: ‘We considered the ad, which depicted the elf and two unclothed female dolls placed in a sink filled with bubbles and the caption, “A night of ‘Selfies and chill”, to be a play on the term “Netflix and chill”, which was a widely known term implying sexual activity.’
The ASA ruled that the ads breached rules regarding social responsibility plus harm and offence.