Furniture retailer wins another TV ad challenge  

A TV ad for furniture retailer DUSK, seen in October and November 2023, featured an older woman sitting in a quirkily decorated room, sipping tea while speaking to the camera.

She said, “Of course I thought about going down the traditional route, you know, visiting a big old showroom, flicking through endless swatches and then ordering a sofa for well over a grand. But instead, I decided to buy direct from and have money left over to pay Carlo!”

A topless man, with his head out of the frame, walked into the room and poured tea into the woman’s cup. The woman then looked at the camera and said, “Dusk sayin’.”

The advert received 40 complaints, believing that the ad objectified men and challenged whether the ad was harmful and offensive.

In response, DUSK said the ad portrayed a “glamorous and aspirational lifestyle”. It was light-hearted and tongue in cheek, and they believed it was unlikely to cause serious offence. There was no serious nudity, and Carlo was not sexually explicit or suggestive.

“He was admired and respected by the main character, Kitty. It was clear that he was viewed as someone who performed a paid-for job she appreciated, rather than an object, as she referred to him by his name,” the retailer continued.

“The focus of the ad was on Kitty and the DUSK product throughout, and it did not shift to focus onto Carlo. Further focus was drawn to the product and price by a roundel popping on screen while Carlo was also on screen.

“The ad avoided gender stereotypical roles and ensured that neither character was belittled or made fun of. They considered that seeing a man carry out his job in a role that would historically and stereotypically be viewed as associated with women, deconstructed gender stereotypes and confirmed that anyone could undertake such roles.”

Clearcast said that the ad was light-hearted, good humour. For almost the entire duration of the ad viewers only saw Kitty. Her visually eclectic style, and her shopping at DUSK was the ad’s focus, with Carlo briefly appearing at the very end.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that there was no breach and dismissed the challenges, stating: “The ad featured a female character talking about how she had decided to purchase a sofa from for a lower price than sofas from “traditional” showrooms. At the end of the ad, a butler (Carlo), appeared and refilled the woman’s drink.

“The ASA considered that because he was shirtless, and his face was not in frame, viewers’ focus would be drawn to his body. However, he appeared only briefly at the end of the ad, and in a manner that was not sexually suggestive in tone. We considered, instead, that the ad depicted an exaggerated scenario, and viewers were likely to recognise the ad’s surreal and comical tone.

“Because of that, we considered that Carlo’s portrayal did not objectify the character. Whilst we acknowledged that some viewers might find it distasteful, we concluded that the ad was not irresponsible or likely to cause serious or widespread offence. We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility) and 4.2 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.”

This is the second time a DUSK TV ad has been challenged and waved away by the ASA following an earlier, which was reported during February of this year. See related.

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