An advert for a Harvey Nichols sale has escaped censure despite attracting 105 complaints that it pictured people who had apparently wet themselves with excitement.

The campaign for the upmarket department store featured well-dressed women and a man each with a wet stain in their groin area accompanied by text stating: "The Harvey Nichols sale. Try to contain your excitement."

harvey nichols advert

The ASA said the advert was "unusual" but not offensive

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 94 complaints that the ad was offensive for implying that the people had wet themselves with excitement while 29 said the ads would cause distress and serious offence to people with bladder problems.

Harvey Nichols said it had attempted to capture excitement about the sale in a light-hearted and humorous way by a visual representation of the well-known phrase "I was so excited, I nearly wet myself."

It suggested that some of the complainants were assuming offence on behalf of others, and provided the ASA with three blog entries from people with bladder problems who found the ads amusing.

harvey nichols advert

Harvey Nichols said the adverts were designed to be light-hearted

Rejecting the complaints, the ASA acknowledged that the concept of "wetting oneself with excitement" was well known and often used in the media and in speech in a light-hearted manner, but noted that images of someone wetting themselves with excitement were "nonetheless unusual".

It said that although the images made clear what was intended by the choice of language, "we nevertheless considered the images and the ads, although likely to be seen as unsubtle and tasteless by many members of the general public, were unlikely to cause them serious or widespread offence".

It added: "We understood that around 14 million people in the UK had bladder problems and involuntary urination was likely to be a particularly sensitive issue for many.

"Nonetheless, we considered the ads would not be seen as making light of people with urinary problems and therefore, even to those who suffered from such problems, were likely to be seen as unsubtle and tasteless but were unlikely to cause them serious offence."