Thursday, 3 September 2009

Nudity in fashion advertising - how much is too much?

Campaign yesterday reported that an American Apparel advert originally placed on the back cover of Vice Magazine has been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The advert consisted of a six images of a female model wearing an American Apparel hoody. The sequence of photographs reveal progressively more nudity, with the second row of photographs showing the hoody unzipped to the waist and the model naked underneath apart from a pair of shorts. In the final photograph the model's left nipple is partially exposed. The model was styled with natural make-up and the photographs are taken in an amateur, informal style.

Following a single complaint, the ASA investigated whether: 1) the nudity in the advert was offensive and unsuitable to appear on the back of a free magazine; and 2) that the ad was offensive and inappropriate because the model seemed young and vulnerable and could be seen to sexualise a child.

American Apparel, responding to the ASA explained that the images were intended to show that the hoody was soft to the touch and could be worn directly against the skin. Further, they considered that the choice and styling of the model did not suggest she was under 16, nor did they believe the average person would draw that conclusion.

However, the ASA disagreed, stating that "[b]ecause the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, [they] concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers." (They did however agree reject the first ground of complaint finding that the depiction of nudity was not so overly gratuitous as to make it unsuitable for the target audience.)

Whatever your view on the ad, one thing is for certain. American Apparel has achieved far greater publicity through the ASA's banning of the advert and the subsequent press comment than they would have gained from the display of the advert on the back cover of a magazine with a UK circulation of 90,000.