Dutch ad watchdog refuses to ban “sickening” gay hook-up campaign

Despite a series of complaints, the Netherland’s Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has refused to ban an advertising campaign promoting the gay hook-up website and mobile app Squirt. Featured across major train stations in the Dutch cities of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague, in addition to in print and online, the campaign showed images of shirtless men captioned with the slogan, “non-stop cruising”, reports Pink News. Three complaints sent to the ASB - which led to the review - called the ads “highly inappropriate”, “truly sickening and shocking”, and slammed them for exposing young children to terms such as “squirt” and “cruising” alongside suggestive images of half naked men. Yet the government-operated board has dismissed complaints, and ruled the ads may continue, after the campaign was found to uphold “the necessary precautions in the context of good taste and public decency”. Even though the men were topless, they were found to not have been portrayed in “sexually provocative” poses or “suggesting any sexual acts”, added Pink News. A statement published Pink Triangle Press, the company that owns Squirt, has defended the ads, reports Newsgasms. Its digital business director Attila Szatmari wrote the campaign was “driven by how gay friendly the country is and was notably the first country to embrace gay marriage”. “Gay imagery on advertising (solo guys, couples, families) and/or shirtless imagery is not something new for the Netherlands, and we believe that this creative does not violate Article 2 of the Dutch Advertising Code,” he said. “The Netherlands has led the world in recognising gay rights, fostering a thriving gay community; is a service targeted at gay men and is relevant to the community, as well as legally allowed to be advertised.” It’s not the first time the owner of Squirt, has received backlash for its advertising campaigns. In September last year, the Toronto Transit Commission ordered the removal of posters on local subway trains that encouraged gay men to “break the law” through promoting sex in public places.