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ASA bans Tesco Mobile ‘shiitake,’ ‘pistachio’ and ‘fettucine’ ads


By John Glenday, Reporter

May 11, 2022 | 3 min read

Tesco Mobile has been taken to task for alluding to well-known expletives in an outdoor, press and social media advertising campaign.


Tesco’s banned ads

The risque campaign appeared in the pages of The Daily Mail and The Daily Express with full-page advertisements depicting a mushroom and the words: ‘What a load of shiitake’ – a reference to rising phone bills from rival mobile operators.

A second ad assaulted readers with the phrase ‘They’re taking the pistachio,’ complete with an image of a nut. Lastly, an arresting message declared ‘For fettuccine’s sake,’ complete with a diversionary depiction of an innocent-looking pile of pasta.

The telecoms provider elicited 52 complaints through its use of the words ‘shiitake,’ ‘pistachio’ and ‘fettucine,’ all allusions to expletives, with some concerned that the ads were inappropriate for display in the presence of children.

Upholding these concerns, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) sided with the complainants, arguing that the choice of phraseology was “closely linked” to the expletives ‘shit,’ ‘piss’ and ‘fuck,’ both phonetically and orthographically.

Explaining its thought process, the ASA wrote: “We considered that ‘shit’ and ‘piss’ were words so likely to offend that they should not generally be used or alluded to in advertising, regardless of whether they were used in a tongue-in-cheek manner. However, we considered that the word ‘fettucine’ was not closely linked to the expletive ‘fuck,’ as fettucine neither sounded like nor was spelled like the expletive, unlike ‘shiitake’ and ‘pistachio’ and their respective expletives. Therefore, we considered that many would accept that those ads containing that phrase were using a play on words to make a statement about pricing as part of Tesco’s marketing message.”

Tandem social media messaging was addressed separately concerning the use of the word ‘shiit’ and the phrase ‘for f sake’ in tweets, with the ASA observing that the words ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ were so likely to offend they should not generally be used or alluded to in advertising.

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