Last June’s news that the ASA had banned an Yves Saint Laurent advert because the model featured was too thin was welcomed by those of us campaigning against irresponsible and misleading adverts in the fashion and beauty industries. While some adverts like this feature models so thin that they essentially glamorize eating disorders, others are airbrushed so heavily that the models in them often resemble paintings or cartoon characters rather than human beings.
The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, ensuring that advertisements are truthful and socially responsible. Today we’re looking at five times the ASA banned fashion and beauty adverts for being irresponsible or misleading!
YSL Opium Advert Banned
Ah yes, back in 2000, when Tom Ford was the reigning king of ‘sex sells’ advertisements, the infamous Yves Saint Laurent Opium perfume advert featuring a naked Sophie Dahl became one of the top ten most complained about adverts in the history of the ASA. The advert, shot by Steven Meisel, received 948 complaints and the brand was forced to pull it from publication.”We agreed with public complaints that a poster ad for Opium perfume featuring a naked Sophie Dahl was sexually suggestive and, in an untargeted medium, likely to cause serious or widespread offence,” stated the ASA.
Despite this, it’s still one of the most memorable images in the history of fashion and contributed to the ailing brand’s return to glory. Being banned by the ASA only added to its cool factor, exactly what Ford and Meisel had hoped to achieve.
American Apparel ’Offensive’ Adverts Banned
Not unlike Benetton in the 1980s and 1990s, American Apparel believe in the power of shock and the resulting media furor to sell its clothes. The brand routinely uses controversial adverts, often featuring young models in overtly sexual poses. Back in 2013 the ASA banned two racy advertisements for being overtly sexual. One of the advertisements, under the heading “Bodysuits and Thigh-Highs”, featured six images of a female in a black lycra bodysuit and blue thigh high socks. The model was on a bed and her face was not shown. In two of the shots the model was depicted from the front and had her legs open and another showed her from behind in a kneeling position. The other advert showed a model wearing nothing but an oversized sweater, lounging with her legs in the air. The ASA received only one complaint about the advertisements but decided to side with the complainant and ban the ads from ever running “in their current form” stating that the “gratuitous” pictures were “likely to cause serious offence”. American Apparel was less than impressed with the ban, stating;
“How can this agency have any say over what a company displays on its site? We’ve been doing these ads for 10 years. Who are they to say what is and isn’t appropriate?”
More media coverage followed and American Apparel’s marketing team rubbed their grubby hands with glee.
Belstaff and David Beckham
It’s not only overtly sexual images that the ASA have banned. Luxury clothing label Belstaff received a wrap on the knuckles in 2014 and was told it could no longer show its ‘Pure Motorcycle’ advertisement video on the company website. The label, which was selling a line of David Beckham designed motorbike jackets, was no longer be able to show the advert again after the ASA ruled that it ’condoned and encouraged unsafe and irresponsible riding’.
The advert in question featured five men riding motorbikes on UK roads before pulling up at the Belstaff’s Bond Street store. The ASA received a complaint from a concerned member of the public claiming that the video in question promoted unsafe driving. The advert featured a scene from a public road where one rider was shown to overtake another on the inside of a bend in the road. In another scene a rider could be seen with his hands off the handlebars and his arms outstretched while driving.
Rihanna Perfume Advert Deemed Too Sexy
The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a poster for the perfume ‘ROGUE’ by Rihanna, featured a sexualised and provocative image which was inappropriate for children to see. Having received a single complaint from a concerned member of the public who had seen the advert displayed on the doors of a lift in shopping centre, the ASA investigated. The advert showed Rihanna sitting on the floor with her head and shoulders leaning against a wall and her legs raised against a large bottle of perfume. Interestingly, the ASA did not agree with a second complaint abut the advert – that it was overly sexual and demeaning to women. It concluded that because Rihanna appeared to be confident in the image, the ad was unlikely to be demeaning to women or to cause serious or widespread offence. A slightly disconcerting ruling highlighting how de-sensitised society, and indeed the ASA, has become to sexually provocative images of woman.
L’Oreal Foundation Adverts Banned For Misleading Consumers
In 2011, cosmetics giant L’Oreal felt the wrath of the ASA when two of its adverts featuring airbrushed images of actress Julia Roberts and model Christy Turlington were banned. Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson had complained that the L’Oreal adverts were misleading. The ASA agreed and the digitally enhanced pictures of Turlington and Roberts were banned because they didn’t accurately represent the results of what Maybelline’s ‘The Eraser’ and Lancôme’s ‘Teint Miracle’ foundations could actually achieve. L’Oreal admitted retouching but denied that the two adverts were misleading. Because that’s exactly what real women look like when they use these products!!
Although the ASA proactively check the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements, the sheer volume of advertisements means many will go under the radar. The current system is often dependent on members of the public complaining before advertisements will be investigated. So if you see a misleading, offensive or inappropriate advert, don’t forget to let the ASA know!