US online retailer Wish has been reprimanded for promoting “openly sexual” advertisements on platforms that should have been child-friendly.
It included an ad for a sex toy and one showing a woman wearing nipple tassels.
The UK watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), said Wish.com should make sure that its advertisements are “appropriately targeted”.
Wish disagreed that advertisements could cause “widespread offense”.
In 2018, Wish.com violated similar guidelines three times in five months.
- Coca-Cola blocks ads on social media for hate content
- Ben & Jerry’s joins boycott of Facebook ads
The latest judgments concerned four announcements published in April and May 2020.
One of the advertisements featured on the BBC’s Good Food Guide app.
It showed a woman from the neck down wearing a corset with her chest partially exposed, covered only with tassels of nipples.
Three other advertisements, including one showing the image of a male sex toy accompanied by descriptive language, were displayed on the Google Play and Google News apps.
“We considered consumers using apps for recipes, news and playing solitaires would not expect to see sexually explicit content,” said the ASA in the ruling.
“We therefore concluded that in those contexts advertisements were likely to cause both serious and widespread offenses.”
Wish agreed that advertisements may not be appropriate for all forums, but disagrees that they could cause serious or widespread crime.
Immediate Media, the creators of the BBC Good Food app, said that the ad in question was published following programmatic advertising: the automated purchase and sale of online ads.
The company did not believe the ad was suitable for the app audience.
The ASA has limited powers to punish offenders, but has told the BBC that it can distribute a range of penalties to discourage repeat offenders.
“We can place our ads in Google searches, claiming that a particular advertiser has broken the rules,” said the spokesman.
The authority may also invoke mandatory preliminary verification for advertisers who have broken the rules for reasons of taste and decency.
“An advertiser’s reputation can be severely damaged if one considers that it ignores the rules designed to protect consumers,” added the spokesman.
The ASA did not explain in its ruling why, given Wish’s previous violations, it had chosen a rebuke rather than one of the other penalties.
It has no power to impose fines.