No sex please, we’re British, Concerned Parents, Religious, Daily Mail readers…
You can’t miss it and it must be one of the most noticeable campaigns of the moment, the poster for the Australian underwear brand AussieBum. An almost naked man with pants on posing on Clear Channel’s Adshels all over the country. Among my friends it’s created more debate than any recent TV campaign has, but then posters do reach 74% of the population, so it’s a smart strategy to get a brand noticed, plus it’s close to purchase.
A walk through Oxford Circus will also expose you to female models with perfect bodies, dressed in bikinis and all life size for H&M. Typical summer fashion ads, in press they are tamed but blown up on posters they become brash ands maybe too brash.
These are not the only ads featuring scanty clad models pushed into your face by brands seeking to sell you underwear or bikinis in time for summer.
But the ethical issue here is – is it offensive to some people and if so, should brands be allowed to put up such ads? Especially as they will be seen by all ages (kids as well) and many religious types. While outdoor ads have little to no vetting scheme, TfL are much stricter about what appears on the underground.
If you are of a particular religious persuasion that doesn’t like to expose its followers to near naked imagers, do campaigns like these cause offence? If you are a member of middle England, middle class Daily Mail sect, then you may wish your children (or grandchildren) to be protected from images that sexualise both men and women or portray an artificial image of beauty, and even encouraging slimming disorders. The girl in the H&M is as thin as they can get away with.
I’m fairly liberal but even so, I was a surprised by both campaigns blatant uses of bare skin, suggested sexuality on outdoor. They both make ‘Hello Boys’ look conservative.
Back in 2912 the ASA received a number of complaints about a similar campaign by H&M (http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/8/HandM-Hennes-and-Mauritz-UK-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_195495.aspx ). Complainants said it was degrading towards women, offensive – irresponsibly placed, because they believed it was too sexual for general display and unsuitable to be seen by children.
H&M said it “regretted that the advertising had been perceived as offensive, and they would take the complaints into consideration for future advertising campaigns.” Well obviously they didn’t.
Of course you can also argue that this is no different from what you kids would see on the beach when they go on holiday, but then the tube isn’t a beach. Or that society has become too PC thanks to beaurocrats who seem to make all the rules these days.
SHOULD CONDOMS BE IN YOUR FACE OR YOUR POCKET?
Many years ago when I worked on the launch of the female condom, Femidom, we got a complaint from a catholic school in the Midlands about the posters “Condom” and “Johnny has had a sex change”. One parent commented in the local press that because of the poster they were having to explain “what a condom was to their teenage daughters”. Shocking? More so that they hadn’t had the conversation with their daughters. As the local paper commented, “no wonder the UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies.”
Also at the time we had endless problems with getting our ads approved, and other ads we were doing for Family Planning Association, as we couldn’t mention the word ‘condom’ on either the radio or TV. Finally it took the Minister for Health to tell the TV stations to run the ads as they would contribute to educating the public in a time when STIs and HIV were spreading. God forbid we should upset Mrs Whitehouse when people are dying from AIDS.
CHANGING SOCIAL ATTITUDES
The recent scandal of celebrities, like Jimmie Saville, has highlighted a changing social attitude towards sex and what is ok and what isn’t.
The once famous Pirelli calendar, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, was once seen as a high status aspect of the brand. But today is that still the case? Can brands get away with soft porn anymore? (The Pirelli calendar has even featured nude shots as well.)
(LINK: Pirelli Calendar 2014 by Helmut Newton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Uem7vc09iE)
Ryanair were recently selling a calendar of their bikini clad air hostesses in the name of a teenage cancer charity – good cause but a tacky product. No surprise that few passengers bought it, except drunken 19 year olds on stag weekends.
The behaviour of the cast of any Carry On film would put most of them in court for sexual harassment or even abuse these days. Both the language and the attitude in today’s society is unacceptable, just as Alf Garnet (Til Death Us Do Part) is.
So where do we draw the line? While the media have been enjoying celebrity scandal after scandal, they are happy to promote normalisation of sexuality. While the front page of The Sun may demonise people for treating women like sex objects, on page 3 a different set of values apply.
Many groups are also concerned about the sexual content of many videos, especially rap ones, even if many are clichéd and even pathetic in the way the lead rapper has to be seen with gyrating girls in crop tops and jean pants while he points at the camera.
In an attempt not to expose young minds to sexual images, adult magazines now have to be part covered on the shelves, but pornography is so riff on the web targeting men’s magazines now seem irrelevant.
I have no doubt that the ASA have had a few of complaints about the AussieBum and H&M campaign, they both do a Hello Boys. They certainly have people talking, though in the case of AussieBum the big question is if it’s gay or straight fashion? If you’ve seen their shearing rams ad there seems an obvious answer.
But on one level I can understand religious groups, female groups and parents being uncomfortable walking their kids through Oxford Circus past numerous models in bikinis, but on the other hand I don’t want us to became even more of a cottonwoodl society run by modern day Mrs Whitehouses.
Which maybe leaves it up to the brands to be more responsible. After all, upsetting people these days is less about a few complaints to the ASA than a tornedo of social media complaints.