Adidas has been spanked by the ad watchdog over a “gratuitous” campaign which exposed the bare breasts of 20 women to promote its inclusive range of sports bras, designed to show how one style of sports bra isn’t suitable for all.
The #SupportIsEverything Twitter campaign, created in partnership with TBWA\Neboko, featured the text: “We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort. Which is why our new sports bra range contains 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.”
Similar executions featured on poster sites; one showed the bare breasts of 62 women with the tagline “The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra”, the other ran with the same text with images of 64 women but with their nipples pixelated.
A total of 24 complainants contacted the Advertising Standards Authority, insisting the ads were “gratuitous” and “objectified women by sexualising them and reducing them to body parts”. Others stated the posters were inappropriate for public display because they could be seen by children.
In response to the complaints, Adidas said it believed the images were not gratuitous and were “intended to reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important”.
Adidas also claimed the images had been cropped “to protect the identity of the models and to ensure their safety” in response to those saying the images reduced the women to one body part. The company maintained that it specifically ordered not to place the ads near schools or religious venues.
Twitter said that despite Adidas’ tweet being reported by some users, it was organic and not paid-for, so it therefore did not breach its terms of service.
In its ruling, the ASA said that while it accepted that the ads were intended to provide an honest representation of women’s breasts, which was relevant to the promotion of the sports bras, it noted the breasts were the main focus of the ads and not the bras, which were only referred to in the accompanying text.
And, even though the censored poster was less explicit, the ASA ruled that the “breasts were still visible and recognisably naked”. In addition, the ASA said the large posters were “inappropriately targeted, and were likely to cause widespread offence”.
It also ruled that the tweet’s use of explicit nudity “was not in keeping with [Adidas’] usual content” and was also likely to cause widespread offence.
Ultimately, the regulator ruled that the ads must not appear again in the forms complained of due to their explicit nudity and warned Adidas about its future conduct.
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