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Poundland social media elf banned by ASA

Discount retailer Poundland has been told that the Elf character that appeared on its social media platforms during the run-up to Christmas 2017 can no longer be used.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) informed the retailer that the ads – which complainants said showed the Elf character and other items used in the marketing campaign in a “sexualised manner” – 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,” the ASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ads in question, which appeared on Twitter and Facebook, included one posted on 11 December that featured an image of a toy elf and a bottle of De-Icer placed in front of a car windscreen which displayed a drawing of a pair of breasts. The caption stated: “Oh Elf, we know it’s nippy outside but not that kind of nippy! #ElfBehavingBad."

Another ad, posted on 16 December, featured an image of the toy elf sitting on a toy donkey’s back with the caption: “Don’t tell Rudolph I’ve found a new piece of ass”. There were nine ads in total that prompted complaints.

Poundland's Christmas marketing campaign reportedly only cost the retailer £25.53.

Some 85 people made official complaints about the material, with ASA saying the general view from those who raised concerns was that they were unsuitable to be displayed in an untargeted medium where children could see them.

ASA said all nine ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3, which relates to social responsibility, and 4.1, related to harm and offence.

Poundland said that it did not mean to offend anyone, explaining that the double entendre aspect of some of the ads would not be understood by children. It also stated that the company had never sought to encourage anyone other than adults to follow Poundland on Twitter and Facebook.

The retailer supplied information to ASA saying that there was widespread support for the ads, as well as revealing that they received 33 million impressions in total, four million engagements – including reactions, comments, retweets, shares and replies – and 43,000 new followers were added during the period.

The discounter argued that a large number of people found the campaign to be humorous, engaging, and in line with what it meant to be British.

Poundland responded to the ASA ruling with another tongue-in-cheek Tweet where Elfie pens a letter to his fans from behind bars.