The ad watchdog has torn a strip off clothing brand Jack Wills after it featured images of young male and female models in their underwear drinking, dancing and frolicking on a bed together, in its spring catalogue.
Sent as a direct mailing, the range also featured the text: “Whatever your choice, you can be sure it’s what’s underneath that counts” while larger text read: “Midnight mischief.” Another page, promoting “loungewear”, featured images of male and female models on a bed. Some of the models wore loungewear, one male model was topless on a bed with a woman while reading and another woman wore a bra with a strap falling off her shoulder.
One complainant challenged whether the images were unsuitable for publication in a clothing catalogue that was targeted at, and seen by, teenagers.
In its defence, Jack Wills said the brand targeted 18- to 24-year-old university students and not younger teenagers, adding that the catalogue was sent in a sealed, opaque paper envelope and the website had an under-18 restriction for signing up to receive communications.
The company denied that the images were sexualised or provocative and insisted they did not imply sexual activity in any way.
But the Advertising Standards Authority disagreed, ruling that although Jack Wills’ target audience was 18 to 24-year olds, younger teens might have access to the ad either directly or indirectly. It added that the images were likely to appeal to those readers because they portrayed a lifestyle to which they might aspire.
The ASA said the sequence of images, in conjunction with the text, was sexually suggestive as opposed to simply being flirtatious or playful.
The regulator added: “Because we understood that younger teenagers could have both direct and indirect access to the catalogue, and because we considered the images and text were sufficiently sexualised to be inappropriate for that audience, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and that it breached the Code.”
It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form: “We told Jack Wills not to use sexualised images and text that were inappropriate for younger teenagers in ads to which those teenagers could have both direct and indirect access.”
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