A website (store.americanapparel.co.uk) featured a product page for the "Lips Print Cotton Spandex Sleeveless Thong Bodysuit". A female model was featured in four images wearing the advertised product. One of the images showed her from the back with her buttocks visible.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and offensive, because it portrayed a sexualised image of a model who the complainant considered looked under 16 years of age.
American Apparel (UK) Ltd believed the image did not represent an underage model and said the model shown was 20 years old. They said the ad depicted the advertised product from various angles and included an image of the thong component of the bodysuit. They believed the image was consistent with standards contained in similar ads.
The ASA acknowledged the ad depicted the advertised product from various angles. We considered the model had a youthful appearance and that some consumers were likely to regard her as being younger than 16 years of age. The model was shown looking back at the camera over her shoulder with her buttocks visible. We considered that readers were likely to interpret the model's expression and pose as being sexual in nature. In conjunction with the youthful appearance of the model, we considered the ad could be seen to sexualise a child. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and was likely to cause serious offence.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) and
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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told American Apparel (UK) Ltd to ensure future ads did not include images that inappropriately sexualised young women or were likely to cause serious offence.