A paid-for Instagram post by @babyboofashion, an online clothing retailer, seen in October 2020, depicted various shots of women wearing lingerie and angel wings or animal ears. A voiceover stated, “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total [bleeped out] and no other girls can say anything about it. The hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears”. The video ended with a black screen with “BABYBOO. BABYBOOFASHION.COM” in white writing and a voiceover stating, “Babyboofashion.com”.
IssueThe complainant, who believed the ad was sexist, objectifying, and gave a harmful message to young women, challenged whether it was offensive and irresponsible.
ResponseBabyboo Fashion Pty Ltd t/a Babyboo did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Babyboo’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded Babyboo of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ad depicted various models wearing lingerie and animal ears or angel wings. We considered the bright lighting and clothes rails in the background of some of the shots suggested the models were in the Babyboo shop and modelling the clothes. Although the models were shown in lingerie, we considered that most of the poses were not overly sexualised. However, in contrast, one shot depicted two models in lingerie and angel wings, kneeling on a bed with their legs apart. Both models looked at the camera seductively, while one of them twirled her hair and the other model moved her hands along her thighs. We considered that the shots of the models on the bed were suggestive, the poses were unnecessarily sexualised and had the effect of objectifying the women.
The accompanying voiceover stated, “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total [bleeped out] and no other girls can say anything about it.” We understood that the bleep censor was to obscure the word ‘slut’, but considered that it would be obvious to viewers what the obscured word was. The voiceover further stated that, “The hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.” We understood that the voiceover quote was taken from a film. However, we considered it was presented out of context and was likely to be taken at face value.
We considered viewers were likely to understand from the ad that women who dressed and presented themselves in a similar way to the models shown were ‘sluts’. The term ‘slut’ was a negative stereotype of women and was commonly used to refer to women who had or were perceived to have many sexual partners, in a derogatory way that passed judgment on those behaviours. We considered that the use of that word in the context of the ad was likely to be seen as demeaning to women. Further to that, the models were depicted in an objectifying way, accompanied by a message that this type of look and behaviour was aspirational – for example, the reference to ‘hard-core girls’ alongside images of girls in animal ears and lingerie implied that taking the idea to its extreme was to be admired.
While there was nothing inherently wrong with dressing in the way shown in the ad, or having multiple sexual partners, we considered that linking those things with the denigrating term ‘slut’, and implying women should aspire to being objectified, was problematic. Overall, we considered that the ad was likely to cause serious offence and included a gender stereotype in a way that was likely to cause harm. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
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: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. 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. and 4.9 4.9 Marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence?” (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Babyboo Fashion Pty Ltd to ensure their advertising was socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence by objectifying women. We also told Babyboo Fashion Pty Ltd to ensure they did not present gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm in their future advertising.