The Sun today declared "WORLD GONE MAD – OFFICIAL" after its advert offering readers the chance to date a Page Three model was deemed "sexist" and "demeaning". (Shutterstock image)
The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a promotion by the paper offering fantasy football contestants the opportunity was in breach of its code.
The ASA has ruled that the subscriber email advert – which offered the date as an incentive to become the “chairman” of a league and encourage friends to join – should not appear again after it received 1,036 complaints, many from SumOfUs.org.
The newspaper was told to ensure that future advertising is not “socially irresponsible or likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
The advert said: "You're signed up to Dream Team and for that we promise to love, adore and cherish you … You can take your Dream Team experience to the next level by becoming a Chairman and creating a Mini League. Not only do you get to hammer your mates every week, but if you recruit 10 players or more to your league you will get: Entered into a prize draw for a date with a Page 3 girl – we might even let you pick which one, so feel free to start your research now … Don't listen to your girlfriend when she says size doesn't matter. The bigger your Mini League is, the more prizes you can get your mitts on.”
It was found to have breached rules of responsible advertising, harm and offence, sales promotions and gambling.
On the offer of a Page Three date, the ASA said: “In the context of the ad, we considered that to offer a date with a woman as a reward for success in the game was demeaning to women and objectified those offered as prizes.
“We also considered that the wording ‘we might even let you pick which one, so feel free to start your research now …’, further enhanced the impression that the women were simply objects to be selected at the whim and enjoyment of the winner, and had no choice in the matter themselves.
“We considered that the primary motivation of a number players, both male and female, when signing up to the Dream Team game would be their interest in sport and fantasy football.
“We considered they would not necessarily expect a date with a page-three girl to be offered as a prize and that the notion of offering a date with a woman as a prize was likely to be offensive to a number of recipients.
“Because we considered that the email presented the women as objects to be won, we concluded that it was sexist, offensive and socially irresponsible.”
The Sun was "disappointed" by the finding. A spokesman said: “Countless campaigns of a broadly similar, light-hearted nature by other companies have not been ruled ‘socially inappropriate’ by the ASA.”
The Sun reported Mick Hume, a columnist for the paper, as saying: “Anybody would think The Sun was running a Fantasy Slavery League and offering a woman in chains as a prize.
“Groups such as SumOfUs are professional complainants who spend their lives scouring the web for something to get outraged about. These people truly live in a fantasy world.”