Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld.
Images on the 'advertising' page of the website www.americanapparel.net included:
a. Under the heading "Bodysuits and Thigh-Highs", six images of a female in a black lycra bodysuit and blue thigh high socks. The model was on a bed and her face was not shown. One of the shots showed her from the chest down and the other five were from the area around the waist or lower. In two of the shots the model was depicted from the front and had her legs open and another showed her from behind in a kneeling position. The other three images showed her from the side, either in a kneeling or reclining position.
b. Along with the text "Meet Trudy. Trudy is a St. Louis native who has been travelling for the company since 2009 as a store consultant. Her hobbies include vintage buying as well as singing and dancing to 90's R&B. She is photographed here wearing the Unisex Oversized Fisherman Turtleneck Sweater". The model was shown from the side wearing only a jumper. Her bottom half appeared naked and she was reclining on a bed with her legs in the air.
The complainant, who believed the models appeared vulnerable, challenged whether:
1. ad (a) was offensive, because she believed it was overtly sexual and objectified women; and
2. ad (b) was offensive, because she believed it was overtly sexual.
1. & 2. American Apparel (UK) Ltd (American Apparel) said they did their best to abide by the standards of the industry as well as creating authentic, honest and memorable images relevant to their customer base.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted ad (a) did not show the model's face and that the scenes, which showed her on a bed, emphasised her groin and buttocks as well as focusing on her breasts, albeit they were covered. Although we considered it was reasonable for ads for hosiery to feature women in limited clothing, we considered the images and the model's poses were gratuitous. We considered the images were overtly sexual and that they demeaned women by emphasising the model's groin, buttocks and breasts and by not including her face.
We noted the woman in ad (b) was fully clothed on her top half but that she was also on a bed and her bottom half appeared naked. Her buttocks were visible, with her legs raised. We considered the image to be gratuitous, particularly in an ad for knitwear. We also considered the model's facial expression appeared blank, if not unsure, and were concerned that she appeared vulnerable. We considered the image was overtly sexual.
We considered there was a voyeuristic quality to the images, which served to heighten the impression that the women were vulnerable and in sexually provocative poses. For the reasons given, we considered the ads were likely to cause serious offence to visitors to American Apparel's website. We concluded that they breached the Code.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told American Apparel to ensure their future advertising contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.