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Just a question of taste

Commercials for some products were not banned, but the content and methods of advertising were constrained, supposedly to protect the viewing public by the companies themselves. These restrictions were contained in a section of the Notes for Guidance on Television Advertising entitled A Question of Taste. This page looks at some of these as stated in the 1964 Code, and how they affected the advertising of the particular products.

Toilet Paper

TOILET PAPER: Care should be taken when showing toilet rolls. They should not be shown installed and it is recommended that packshots should not be held in close-up for more than a few seconds.

So you had to advertise a product without showing it close up, or in its proper place. This has led to whimsical portrayals of animals and children playing with the stuff which last to this day, although other sideways approaches have been taken. Not many would have passed the test of Associated-Rediffusion, who would not accept any adverts before 21:30 as `people may still be eating their dinner' (obviously they ate late at Kingsway House), and the rolls had at all times to be kept within their packaging.

1997 saw the first advert which showed an adult sitting on the toilet and the roll installed. However he would have had some problem since the seat was down.

Toilet Cleaners

Right, perhaps people wouldn't want to see the use of toilet paper visibly demonstrated. But surely there should be any problems with products designed to clean the lavatory? Wrong.

TOILET CLEANSERS: Demonstrations of toilet cleaners must not show a shot of a lavatory pan, but a toilet cleaner may be shown on a bathroom window-ledge or being held above the actual toilet. This should not reveal any part of the toilet itself.

Great. Your task is to advertise a cleaning product, without showing what it is intended to clean. You can only place your product on a tiled shelf, hoping that the audience will make the connection. Indeed advertisers were so frightened that they would not even mention the dreaded words `toilet' or `lavatory' until 1962, even though there was no such prohibition. In the end these odd restrictions were lifted, firstly to allow a shot of the toilet rim, and finally in 1971 the whole thing.


Now you might not think there was anything objectionable about deodorants apart from people who need them that don't use them. However:

DEODORANTS AND DEPILATORIES: Demonstrations of the actual application of deodorants and depilatories should be avoided. Advertisements are more likely to be acceptable when emphasis is given to the good grooming and cleanliness achieved by their use. Impersonal or abstract techniques or presentations with an air of fantasy are preferable to direct illustration.

Hmm, how can you show a deodorant or depilatory using Impersonal or abstract techniques or presentations with an air of fantasy? Initially it meant a resort to animation, as used by Odo-ro-no and Sno-mist (what happened to them?). Later there were shots of people - usually women - from the back showing head and armpit. One product, whose name `Tickle' itself generates mental pictures, had a commercial so suggestive, using its phallic bottleshape that it was banned.

Bras and Girdles

Not seen an awful lot these days in television advertising, these were also subject to a number of restrictions:

FOUNDATION GARMENTS: The use of a live model to illustrate the movements of a garment is permissible, provided that the wearer is completely blacked out, and showed a black background. Close-ups of foundation garments worn by live models are not, however, to be allowed. In these cases dummies should be used. Any sales features which the advertiser wishes to emphasize should be portrayed diagrammatically.

This lead to a number of shots of bras and girdles on headless dummies (headless so that no one might even think that it was a real model) complete with those mysterious arrows usually found on asprin commercials. The ban on live models was lifted in 1971, but one of the first commercials to use one for Berlei was challenged because it included a shot of a mother in a bra and skirt with her two year old boy. The agency took the position that they weren't going to substitute a girl, and the commercial was shown.

Feminine Hygiene

This had a complete ban:

FEMININE HYGIENE, FEMININE DISORDERS etc. Owing to the possibility of causing offence or embarrassment to viewers, products offered particularly in relation to feminine hygiene and feminine disorders are unsuitable for television advertising, and the following points should be noted:

  1. The advertising of products intended for the relief of menstrual pain, menopausal symptoms etc., cannot be accepted.
  2. Advertising for pads, tampons, etc., cannot be accepted
  3. Care must be taken to see that advertisements for analgesics, sedatives, health beverages and any other appropriate products cannot be construed either visually or verbally as offering the product for the treatment of feminine disorders.
  4. References to the use of antiseptics and similar products for the purpose of feminine hygiene are not acceptable.
No-one tried getting round this until the rules started to be relaxed in the 1970s, and although commercials for feminine products of these types are now seen frequently, they still attract letters of complaint. Overwhelmingly from women.

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