Ad mocking BMW ‘bum boy cars’ banned by advertising watchdog

An advert for an online car leasing company that mocked BMWs as “bum boy cars” has been banned for homophobic content.

Car leasing service Ling’s Cars was responsible for the ad, which was reported appearing on Facebook in February.

The ad promoting Fiat Spider cars for lease stated: “Who needs a V8 Kia Stinker or a BMW bum boy car, when you have the best small convertible ever?”

Facebook users quickly reported the message to the Advertising Standards Authority – but incredibly, when the body approached the company to explain the ad was offensive, Ling’s Cars suggested changing the wording to “batty boy cars.”

The ASA banned the ad after explaining that both “bum boy” and “batty boy” are homophobic slurs.

A BMW M3 Coupe 2008 (Creative Commons photo/Flickr user Bekir Topuz)

In a ruling on Wednesday (June 6) the regulator said: “[The advertiser] did not believe the term ‘BMW Bum Boy’ was offensive and thought it was a well-known term for someone who owned a modified BMW vehicle and drove aggressively.

“They suggested changing the wording to the term ‘BMW Batty Boy’.

“The ASA considered that ‘bum boy’ was widely understood as a derogatory term directed at homosexual men and that the use of that term to describe a vehicle would therefore be regarded as homophobic by many people.

“Whilst we acknowledged Ling’s Cars comments on their target audience, we considered that a person’s age and their interest in cars had no relevance as to whether or not they would be offended by homophobic language. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some readers.

“We acknowledged Ling’s Cars suggested change of wording to ‘BMW Batty Boy’, but considered that was not significantly different to the original term and was equally offensive for the same reason.

“The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules (Social responsibility) and (Harm and offence).”

High-end BMW cars (Creative Commons photo/Alex Krasavtsev)

The ASA added: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Ltd to ensure their future advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society, and that it did not cause serious or widespread offence.”

It is unclear how the advert was approved by Facebook, which claims to have strict internal policies for adverts which prohibit homophobic or otherwise discriminatory content.

Facebook was forced to pull down adverts in 2017 after PinkNews revealed ads were being targeted at gay customers promoting gay ‘cure’ therapy and threatening them with an “eternity in hell” if they continued to live a “homosexual lifestyle.”

At the time Facebook told PinkNews: “This ad violates our advertising policies, and has been removed.”

However just months later the social network was caught out again promoting another gay ‘cure’ advert from the same group.

Facebook removed the ability for advertisers to target users directly by sexual orientation in March ahead of European GDPR data protection rules coming into effect that list sexuality as a protected piece of information.

However, advertisers can still target users by their interest in the ‘LGBT community’ and several other apparent proxies for identity.