ASA Rulings – March 2022
This month, the ASA upheld two rulings on sexually explicit ads by Boohoo.com and Box Menswear Ltd.
The website featured two images showing a model wearing a T-shirt with only thong style bikini bottoms and trainers. The model was in a variety of poses, one was a rear view that showed her kneeling and the other showed her sitting on the ground with her legs apart. There was another image which showed the model lifting her t-shirt as if to remove it and exposing the skin on her stomach and side
The complainant believed that the images objectified and sexualised women and challenged whether the ad was offensive, harmful and irresponsible.
Boohoo responded saying that the images were part of their swimwear category, explaining that the model was wearing the t-shirt with a bikini, and that combining a variety of products is commonplace within their brand, allowing consumers to see how items could be worn in different ways. However, they said that they understood the importance of the issues raised and had removed the images from their website.
UPHELD – The ASA felt that whilst the images had been presented as part of the swimwear category, the advertised product was an oversized t-short and appeared as result of searches for T-shorts or tops.
The ASA concluded that the model was posed in a sexually suggestive way, and that the partial nudity or bikini bottoms were relevant to the product and the images did not show how product as it would usually be worn. And so the ASA came to the decision that the ad objectified and sexualised women and was therefore irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence.
CAP Code – 1.3 – social responsibility, 4.1 and 4.9 – harm and offence.
Lessons to be learnt:
All adverts and promotions must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and the wider society that they do NOT cause serious or widespread offence or harm by objectifying women.
There were three emails sent by Box Menswear Ltd which all featured topless men wearing briefs in which their penises were visible.
The complainant believed that the ads were sexually explicit and so challenged whether the ads were offensive.
Box Menswear Ltd responded saying that they did not agree that the images were sexually explicit or that the ads were offensive. They said that Box Menswear was a men’s clothing retailer, whose audience was predominantly LGBTQ+, and that the ads had been designed to appeal to this market. Box Menswear said that the ad was targeted to those who had subscribed to their mailing list by visiting the website or had previously purchased a product from the website. The recipients of the ads therefore understood the sexual nature of the images Box Menswear used to promote their products.
UPHELD – the ASA upheld the complaint against two of the emails, stating that the material in one of them was consistent with that presented on their website and so considered that the email was unlikely to cause serios or widespread offence. However, the ASA considered that the two other emails were of a sexually explicit nature extending beyond just showing the products and were therefore likely to cause serious offence. The ASA considered that they did not appear against an established context of similar content on the website, and so concluded that the ads were likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.
4.1 – harm and offence.
Lessons to be learnt:
As with the previous ruling, brands need to be cautious when running promotions in order to not cause serious or widespread offence by being overly sexually explicit.