Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Overreaction? American Apparel Ads Banned in the UK

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has banned eight advertising images featured from American Apparel’s campaign in October 2011.
The images included semi-naked women modelling knickers, socks, and sweaters in, debatably, various provocative poses that exposed their breasts or buttocks.
According to WWD, the ASA received a single complaint about the images which deemed them ‘offensive, pornographic, exploitative of young women and inappropriately sexualiz[ing] young women’.
This sparked an investigation led by the advertising watchdog into the retailers advertising campaign. Though since the release of the images on the internet back in October they have already been transferred to the advertising archive and are no longer in use.
The retailer's website maintains that their "ads have always been indicative of a time and place in American Apparel's identity" and the brand defended its campaign stating that the imagery was “not graphic, explicit or pornographic but was designed to show a range of different images of people that were natural, not posed and real.”
American Apparel further argued that the images “were less and certainly no more sexual in nature than a large proportion of images of other companies” and that the images featured "real, non-airbrushed, everyday people", and that the vast majority of them were not professional models.
The ASA, however, argued that the images were ‘gratuitous’ with the images of the young women mainly focusing on their breasts and buttocks rather than the actual products themselves.
In this, the ASA ruled that the images ultimately demonstrated a "voyeuristic and amateurish quality […] which served to heighten the impression that the ads were exploitative of women and inappropriately sexualised young women".
One particular image survived the ban because it was "only mildly sexually suggestive" and shows a model dressed in a sweater and white underwear posing on a bed with her legs spread apart.

Similarly the ASA also received complaints about David Beckham’s online digital posters of his H&M advertising campaign for men’s underwear. They rejected the complaints stating that the posters did not feature "explicit nudity" and that they were "mildly sexual at most". Some may beg to differ as the images illustrate Beckham sporting a rather skimpy pair of tighty whities with his muscular torso on full display.

Is Beckham’s advertising imagery really less provocative than those of American Apparel? One could surely argue that they are just as distasteful, or indeed fashionable, as one another. Perhaps it is just so the case that what one would consider a magnificent piece of art, or in this case advertising, is another person’s piece of trash. After all, they both feature semi-naked models and both serve to advertise underwear.
One could go further and ask if the marketing tactics of advertising have gone too far this time. It is only too clear that today the objectification of the body is vigorously exploited in the ethics of advertising, with these two instances only a minuscule proportion of all the hundreds and thousands of other marketing campaigns that use sex and the body to sell.
What are you saying ladies?