Clothing retailer Missguided has been spanked over an ad for its swimwear range that ran during Love Island after one viewer of the show took offence at the sexual imagery, despite claims it was designed to “empower women”.
The video on demand ad, which aired on ITV Hub, opened with a close-up of a woman’s mouth as she held a strawberry between her lips. It then showed young women in swimwear on a boat and on-screen text stated: “If you plan on wearing clothes this summer… we’ve got you covered… kind of.”
The spot then switched to other “seductive scenes”, including women on a beach with their legs apart, a woman running her hand up her inner thigh, a group of women in thong bikinis and another posing in a bikini with her legs astride a motorbike.
One Love Island fan took umbrage, however, and rifled off a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority claiming the ad was offensive and irresponsible for overly sexualising and objectifying women.
In its defence, the clothing brand said the ad was aimed at women under 30 years of age and it had tried to promote a particular lifestyle rather than just clothing.
Missguided said that while the imagery may be construed as sexual, including the image of the strawberry between a woman’s lips, they were merely “motifs used to create the lifestyle brand”.
Referring to the model who was running her hands up her thigh, Missguided said she was wearing full-length trousers and used a hand gesture to focus the eye of the viewer on the clothing. The shot of the models in thong bikinis was just to show the bikini from behind, it claimed.
Missguided also said the models were of different sizes and backgrounds and that the ad focused not only on the clothes they wore but also their faces, with a number of the camera angles shot from below to show “empowering, confident young women”.
The firm maintained that the ad was not overly different to images one might see on a beach during summer months or that were used in any ad for a bikini.
Missguided also pointed out that the ad was not dissimilar from the opening titles and content of Love Island itself. ITV said the ad depicted similar values, swimwear and scenes as Love Island and that it was surprised to learn that a viewer of the programme had considered the content of the ad offensive.
Clearcast said the ad should be given an “ex-kids” scheduling restriction to keep it away from young children because of its sexual tone. However, because it was promoting a swimwear range, the body of the models would always be exposed and, while some of the poses did have a sexual tone, Clearcast did not consider them to be “overly sexualised”.
Nevertheless, the ad watchdog was having none of it and banned the ad from appearing again in its current form.
The ASA ruling stated: “We acknowledged that there were similarities between the content of the ad and [Love Island]… However, we considered that some viewers who enjoyed the programme would nevertheless be seriously offended by advertising that presented women as sexual objects. Because the ad objectified women, we concluded that it was irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence.”
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