Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More hysterical censorship from the UK

This transit ad, from the UK's Marks & Spencer chain, has been banned by the kingdom's ad regulator for being too sexy.

From their ruling:

"We noted the complainants’ concerns that this ad, displayed on buses, was likely to be seen by children. We considered that most children viewing the ad would understand that the poster was advertising lingerie and, as such, the models would not be fully clothed. We considered that the pose of the woman lying on the bed was only mildly sexual in nature, and as a result was unlikely to be seen as unsuitable to be seen by children. However, we considered that the pose of the woman kneeling on the bed was overtly sexual, as her legs were wide apart, her back arched and one arm above her head with the other touching her thigh. We also noted that the woman in this image wore stockings. We considered that the image was of an overtly sexual nature and was therefore unsuitable for untargeted outdoor display, as it was likely to be seen by children. We concluded that the ad was socially irresponsible."
If you read this blog, you know my stand on this. Using sex to sell everything is just lazy. Objectifying women in ads is insulting. But those are my opinions, not things I want regulated.

I honestly believe that we, as consumers, need to decide for ourselves what we are willing to tolerate from advertisers. Sexual exploitation of women in ads is so commonplace, in ads aimed at both men and women, that I'm surprised it has any breakthrough potential at all anymore. My 7-year-old son, just last weekend, was stopped in his tracks by a larger-than-life POP poster at Sears showing a woman in see through underwear. But that stopping power wears off. (In his case, he just blurted out "booby covers!" and laughed.)

You can choose to complain to a business about their ads. Or you can choose to not do business with them. You can choose to complain to the owner of the media. But this knee-jerk banning that's happening with the ASA in the UK really seems over the top to me. Plus, it only works into the offending advertisers hands by giving people a reason to take notice of their ads.

Generally, in social marketing, we feel that it's more effective to recognize and reinforce good behaviour than punish and shame bad. Imagine if organizations like the ASA put more of their efforts into celebrating the advertisers who are "socially responsible",  giving them the free PR while the naughty ones languished in the oversaturated sexy soup of the ad landscape. Wouldn't that be nice?

Via The Drum and The Telegraph

1 comment:

  1. The ASA withholds ads (the word "ban" is inflammatory and only used by the press reporting on these issues) primarily on the basis of incorrect or misleading statements but sometimes on the basis of sexual imagery as it has here.

    I think it's important to note that it's not the nudity that's the problem but the position which is considered inappropriate in this case. Male and female semi-nudity is common and expected in advertising in the UK and across Europe and not an issue.

    Even sexual imagery is permitted within the appropriate setting. If you want to put a highly sexual ad in GQ, Cosmo, or on the TV after 8pm, that'll be just fine.

    While I'm largely against censorship of all types, I think that there are lines that need to be drawn to ensure that children are not accidentally exposed to something they're not ready for. That exposure should be the decision of the parents, not the decision of the advertiser.

    In this country that line is drawn in front of imagery of a violent or sexual nature, but not in front of basic nudity. Given what they do allow every day, I wouldn't describe this recommendation as knee-jerk or hysterical.