Ad description

A direct mailing for Jack Wills, received on 7 February 2016, included their spring catalogue.

One page featured images of male and female models in their underwear drinking, dancing and on a bed together. Text at the top stated “UNDERWEAR … Pure and comfortable cottons, or flirty delicate laces, whatever your choice, you can be sure it’s what’s underneath that counts …”. Large text at the bottom stated “… midnight MISCHIEF”.

Another page, promoting “loungewear”, featured images of male and female models on a bed. Some of the models wore loungewear, one male model was topless on a bed with a woman while reading and another woman wore a bra with a strap falling off her shoulder.


The complainant challenged whether the images were unsuitable for publication in a clothing catalogue that was targeted at, and seen by, teenagers.


Jack Wills Ltd stated that their brand was targeted at 18- to 24-year-old university students and not at younger teenagers. They said the catalogue was addressed and sent to the complainant, not her children, and was delivered in a sealed, opaque paper envelope. They pointed out that the terms and conditions on their website, which anyone signing up to receive their communications must accept, stated “In particular, we draw your attention to our policies relating to the terms of purchase and our Privacy Policy. If you are under 18, you must let your parent or guardian know about Jack Wills Privacy Policy before you register to use this Site or any of this Site's services”.

They said it was in keeping with their brand image to depict a group of five friends in all of its campaigns as a reflection of the life stages of their target audience. The images showed a group of friends enjoying a weekend away, relaxing with each other and enjoying a pyjama party. They said the images were not sexualised, provocative and did not imply sexual activity in any way. They also said none of the images featured any nudity and that none of the garments worn by the models was transparent.

Jack Wills did not consider the claims “Pure and comfortable cottons, or flirty delicate laces; whatever your choice, you can be sure it’s what’s underneath that counts …” and “A favourite tee and your boxers, or a lounge short and bra; this is loungewear made for the morning after the night before” to be sexually suggestive or inappropriate because they accompanied images of the group of friends having fun together. Even if the claims were to be interpreted as a double entendre, they did not believe that it could be construed as overly sexual or encouraging underage sexual activity.

Jack Wills said they would, in future, make it clear that consumers were required to be over the age of 18 to receive their correspondence by printing “Please note: You need to be over 18 years old to sign up for Jack Wills’ correspondence” on the opaque envelope their printed catalogue was distributed in.



The ASA noted that the catalogue featured images of a group of older teenagers on a weekend away, and that the images in question showed them relaxing and engaging in activities such as dancing, drinking and reading a newspaper together. Although we understood that Jack Wills’ target audience was 18- to 24-year olds, and that the catalogue was sent to an adult, we considered that younger teens might have access to the ad either directly or indirectly, and that the images were likely to appeal to those readers because they portrayed a lifestyle to which they might aspire.

In several of the images the models were partially dressed or shown in their underwear. We noted that most of the garments were appropriately fitted and did not accentuate or highlight parts of their bodies in a sexualised manner, however, the images were accompanied with claims such as “Flirty laces”, “MIDNIGHT MISCHIEF” and “made for the morning after the night before”. Moreover, we noted that the story of the group of friends depicted them dancing and drinking while fully clothed, then dancing and drinking in their underwear, followed by an image of a woman (holding a drink) and a man next to a bed, a woman in a bra and pyjama shorts brushing her teeth while sitting facing the camera with her legs apart, and a final scene of all of the characters in their underwear in bed together. We considered that this sequence of images, in conjunction with the text, was sexually suggestive as opposed to simply being flirtatious or playful. Because we understood that younger teenagers could have both direct and indirect access to the catalogue, and because we considered the images and text were sufficiently sexualised to be inappropriate for that audience, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and that it breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Responsible advertising).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Jack Wills Ltd not to use sexualised images and text that were inappropriate for younger teenagers in ads to which those teenagers could have both direct and indirect access.

CAP Code (Edition 12)


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