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  1. Science & Tech
24 April 2013updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Pussy Drinks Ltd pretends not to know why people complained about its adverts

"They said the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) stated that a pussy was 'a cat, particularly a kitten' and that was the correct meaning of the word. . . They said the inspiration for the product and white can design was a gorgeous white pussycat owned by a

By New Statesman

An ad campaign for an energy drink has just been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for featuring posters with the word “pussy” in large type, with the strapline “The drink’s pure, it’s your mind that’s the problem”.

The ASA recieved almost 160 complaints over it – some of which said the campaign was offensive to women, some of which said the campaign was unsuitable for children. However, the defence that Pussy Drinks Ltd came up with shows such commitment that it needs to be run in full here (with my emphasis):

1. & 2. Pussy Drinks Ltd considered it ironic that complaints had been made about offence caused, given that their posters clearly stated that the drink was pure and it was the mind of the viewer that was the problem. They said the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) stated that a pussy was “a cat, particularly a kitten” and that was the correct meaning of the word. They said cats possessed all the appropriate symbolism for their product and Pussy was cool, beautiful, feline and natural, with attitude, which explained their choice of name. They stated that until the OED changed the meaning of the word, they defended their right to advertise their product. They questioned why the complainants were automatically referring to the slang meaning of what they believed to be an innocent word. They said it was not their intention to offend, that the slang meaning of the word was not one that they had created, and that any problems were only caused by those who were twisting the meaning of an innocent word.

JC Decaux said they had received one complaint directly. The complainant had found the poster offensive and said there had been a great deal of discussion about the issue on social media sites.

3. They questioned which religion would be specifically offended by Pussy. They said the ancient Egyptians used to worship cats. They felt that people of a religious disposition tended to occupy an idyllic place away from the crassness that sadly existed in mainstream society and therefore felt it was surprising that the complaints had been made.

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4. & 5. The advertisers questioned whether the complaints were from children and believed the complaints were from adults with an adult perspective on the slang meaning of the word. They felt that the complainants were assuming that children were aware of the slang meaning, and if that was the case, they considered it was likely that the children had heard the slang meaning from those adults, who now claimed they wished to protect those children. They stated that, to a child, a pussy was a cat or kitten and did not consider that was offensive. They said the inspiration for the product and white can design was a gorgeous white pussycat owned by a family member as a child.

6. The advertisers did not provide any further comments about the website content specifically.

This sort of tactic is fairly common, and is often used by companies like Ryanair (such as in this case) and Paddy Power (here). It illustrates how difficult it currently is for advertising watchdogs to do their jobs properly –  all they are able to do is stop the adverts, by which time it’s too late and the company has benefited from the “edgy” reputation from the ban.

The ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form, which is this:

Hmmm. Well that’s enough of that.

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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