A website ad on 28 June 2011, for an online clothing retailer, featured a model in a number of images, including in bikinis and denim shorts.
A complainant objected that the ad was irresponsible and offensive, because they believed the model was underweight and looked anorexic.
Drop Dead Clothing Ltd (Drop Dead) said the model was a standard size eight, as defined by the British Standard BS EN 13402, and wore an unadjusted size eight bikini in the ad. They said while many people in the UK may find a size eight too slim, a size eight was a normal UK clothing size and it would be unreasonable to consider a size eight model offensive. They said size eight was their most popular size.
Drop Dead said the model was a professional model, but was a close friend of the company, as were the other models they used in their advertising. They said they used models that were everyday people and therefore were representative of young people. They provided the model's measurements and said that she might not have any fat around her ribs, but she had a bust, hips and healthy skin. They said the makeup used in one of the images may have given her the appearance of dark sunken eyes and a stretched pose may have made her torso look slimmer. They also supplied other photos of the model, which they said showed she was not emaciated and was perfectly healthy.
The ASA considered that the model was very slim, and noted that in the bikini images her hip, rib and collar bones were highly visible. We also noted that in the bikini and denim shorts images, hollows in her thighs were noticeable and she had prominent thigh bones. We considered that in combination with the stretched out pose and heavy eye makeup, the model looked underweight in the pictures.
We noted that Drop Dead's target market was young people. We considered that using a noticeably skinny model with visible hip, rib, collar and thigh bones, who wore heavy makeup and was posed in ways that made her body appear thinner, was likely to impress upon that audience that the images were representative of the people who might wear Drop Dead's clothing, and as being something to aspire to. Therefore, while we considered the bikini and denim short images might not cause widespread or serious offence, we concluded they were socially irresponsible.
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) but not
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 Drop Dead to ensure the images in their ads were responsibly prepared.