Ashley Madison apologizes to Queen Sofía over risqué ad

Dating agency claims that it “deeply regrets” using an image of the royal matriarch in a lover’s pose

Spain's Queen Sofía. / LUIS SEVILLANO

The superimposed image, showing a naked woman with the face of Queen Sofía draped over a man holding a coffee cup with the words “Now you don’t have to spend the night alone,” was, as the La Zarzuela palace put it, “crossing the line.” Last October the queen took Ashley Madison — an online dating agency whose slogan is “Life is short, have an affair” — to court.

Last week, the Royal Household announced that the queen’s lawyer had reached an agreement with Avid Dating Life Europe Ireland Ltd, which owns Ashley Madison, for a public apology to be published in the country’s major newspapers. The queen did not ask for financial compensation in her complaint, and the apology, along with a promise not to use her likeness again, brought the suit to a close.

“Avid and Ashley Madison deeply regret, and wish to show it now publicly in the media, the utilization for commercial ends of a likeness of Her Majesty the Queen, without her consent and in a totally inappropriate context due to her personal career and her institutional significance,” the statement read, adding that the company promised to never use her likeness again.

The agency previously used pictures of the king and Prince Charles

Spain’s AUC advertising watchdog had previously filed a complaint last February about the campaign with Autocontrol, which groups together advertisers, brands and media outlets. Autocontrol found that the advertisement had violated the queen’s right to family and personal privacy. In response to the ruling, the Ashley Madison director in Spain, Christoph Kraemer, accused the AUC of “lacking a sense of humor.”

The agency had used the royal family in its publicity previously when it hired an enormous billboard on Madrid’s Gran Vía. Under pictures of Don Juan Carlos, Prince Charles of Great Britain and former US President Bill Clinton there was a slogan reading: “What do these ‘royals’ have in common? They should have used Ashley Madison.”

On that occasion, in July 2011, the then-mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, ordered the advertisement to be pulled down less than two hours after it had been placed.

However, palace sources said that sometimes “the remedy was worse than the illness,” in reference to a High Court order to withdraw from sale all copies of an edition of satirical magazine El Jueves for the alleged crime of insulting the crown. The front page of the weekly publication carried a caricature of Prince Felipe and his wife, Letizia Ortiz, in a sexually explicit posture.

However, the order had quite the opposite effect as the magazine rushed through an increased print run of 120,000 copies to be distributed to 5,000 points of sale.

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