A full page magazine ad for Wood DSquared2 perfume, seen in the 31 October 2018 edition of The Stylist, the 28 October 2018 edition of Sunday Times Style and the 19 October 2018 edition of the Evening Standard ES Magazine, showed a black and white photograph of a man embracing a woman. The woman was topless and had both arms stretched up around the back of the man's neck. The man, who was standing behind her, was wearing a shirt and had one arm across the woman's breasts, with one hand covering one of her breasts, and the other covering her stomach. The bottom right-hand corner of the ad showed a coloured image of the two fragrances being advertised.
Ten complainants, who noted that the man was clothed while the woman was topless, challenged whether the ad was sexist and sexually objectified women. Some complainants considered the man was shown as dominant over the woman.
EuroItalia s.r.l. (EuroItalia), the licence holder for Dsquared2 fragrances, believed the image represented a passionate embrace between the couple. They said the woman was deliberately placed in front to make her the dominant party in control of the embrace; that her facial expression was confident, powerful and unapologetic; that she was not trapped in the embrace; that neither party was dominant; and that the ad did not sexualise or objectify the woman. Although the complainants had noted that the man was clothed while the woman was topless, EuroItalia said the man's shirt was unbuttoned and that other images in the series showed the woman clothed and the man shirtless or both clothed. They said the presence of the shirt was important as the clothing worn by the models was from Dsquared2's fashion range.
EuroItalia believed ASA guidance allowed for perfume ads being a category in which nudity or partial nudity was acceptable provided the ads were not overtly sexual.
The Stylist believed the art direction and models used in the campaign to have been of a similar look and feel that many other high fashion and beauty campaigns had used in the past. They had received one complaint from a reader. They said they would not be carrying this campaign or any other campaigns similar in nature again.
Sunday Times Style said they were not aware of receiving any complaints about the ad and that they therefore had no evidence to suggest that it had been unsuitable for publication.
The Evening Standard ES Magazine said they had not considered the ad to be irresponsible or likely to cause serious or widespread offence and had received no complaints from their readers.
The ASA acknowledged that, while the man's shirt appeared to be undone, he was mostly clothed while the woman, the top of whose jeans was visible, was topless. Her breasts and stomach were covered by the arms and hands of the man, who stood behind her. We acknowledged that some readers had interpreted the image as sexually objectifying women and a reference to male dominance over women. However, while we considered the pose was mildly suggestive, we also considered it was highly stylised; that the woman appeared confident and in control and that the impression was of a confident and unified couple. We considered the image to be fairly typical of perfume ads and not out of place in magazines and newspapers aimed at general readers. We acknowledged that some readers had found the ad distasteful, but we considered it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Responsible advertising) 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.