A billboard shown at a large shopping mall complex and two posters, in both small and large scale formats, on the London Underground marketing a cosmetics company, MAC:
a. The billboard featured Miley Cyrus wearing a low cut bodysuit lying on her back with her legs apart against a mirrored wall looking into the camera. Around her were mirrors with pink lighting, which showed various angles of her lower body. It featured text that stated “MAC VIVA glam”.
b. The small scale poster shown on the London Underground was almost identical to ad (a), but partially showed a reflection of Miley Cyrus’ crotch in a mirror.
c. The large scale poster shown on the London Underground was almost identical to ad (a), but showed a mirrored reflection of Miley Cyrus’ crotch.
The ASA received complaints from three members of the public:
1. three complainants objected that the ads were offensive, because they believed that they were overtly sexual; and
2. two complainants objected that the ads were unsuitable for display as posters in public areas, as they were likely to be seen by children.
MAC Cosmetics Ltd provided some background information on their “VIVA GLAM” campaign, which raised money for their “MAC AIDS Fund” programme. They stated that the concept of MAC VIVA GLAM was to celebrate life and encompass the diversity of MAC and each year they would work with a new spokesperson for the campaign. MAC stated that their spokespeople were “iconic stars” who were provocative, different and influential and appealed to various communities, which included Miley Cyrus.
1. MAC stated that the ads showed Miley Cyrus in a confident pose and that the use of colour and multiple reflections made the images dynamic and vibrant, while providing a background that made her stand out and that the composition of the ads were designed to draw the viewer to her confident and defiant stare. They stated that the images, including the mirrored reflections of Miley Cyrus, were not overtly sexual since they featured no nudity or any hint of sexual activity including in her facial expression.
MAC believed that the ads were consistent with the ASA’s statement on sexual imagery in outdoor advertising. They stated that although Miley Cyrus’ legs were parted, they were straight and braced against the mirror and that her facial expression showed confidence and possibly even defiance. Furthermore, she was fully clothed and no reference to undressing was made. MAC stated that the ads did not draw attention to Miley Cyrus’ breasts or buttocks in anyway and although her crotch was visible in the mirrors’ reflections, the ads did not, however, draw attention to that part of her body and could not be perceived as being sexual. They stated that while the images might be distasteful to some, they did not believe they would cause serious or widespread offence.
2. MAC believed that the posters were not unsuitable for display in public areas because they could not be classified as being sexually suggestive for the same reasons that they were not overtly sexual. Nevertheless, they confirmed that all the media owners they had used had not displayed the posters within 100 m of a school.
MAC stated that the reflected images of Miley Cyrus’ crotch in the mirrors were no more than what one would ordinarily see when walking along a beach with women sunbathing or by a pool. Furthermore, they stated that the reflections were not a fundamental part of the ad and were blended into the background with other images.
Exterion Media stated that they had been given various designs for MAC’s “VIVA GLAM” campaign and that they had consulted with the CAP Copy Advice team before they were displayed in public areas. Exterion Media further stated that the posters they displayed were not at locations listed as being within 100m of a school and that they had not received any direct complaints regarding the campaign.
1. Not upheld
The ASA recognised that some might find the posters distasteful, particularly in the context of a make-up ad and we considered that the overall message of the posters was sexually suggestive. We noted that Miley Cyrus was shown wearing a one piece corset bodysuit that covered her buttocks and most of her breasts. She was lying down with her legs raised apart against a mirrored wall and was reflected in the background mirrors. Furthermore, we considered that her facial expression along with her hands placed behind her head was seductive in nature. In ad (b), her crotch was partially reflected in one of the mirrors while ad (c) showed a mirrored reflection of her entire crotch, although in both cases they were not heavily emphasised and were distorted by the lighting and overshadowed by Miley Cyrus’ pose. We also acknowledged the large size of ad (a) shown at a shopping mall complex and that ads (b) and (c) were heavily displayed throughout a London Underground station, which consequently, would have made the images more prominent to passers-by.
Therefore, while we considered that the images in all three posters were sexually suggestive, we concluded however, that they were not overtly sexual and unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
On this point we investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
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 them in breach.
2. Not upheld
While we did not consider the images to be overtly sexual, Miley Cyrus’ pose however, was sexually suggestive. In all three ads, she was lying down with her legs raised apart against a mirrored wall and was reflected in the background mirrors. Furthermore, in ad (b) her crotch was partially reflected in one of the mirrors while ad (c) showed a mirrored reflection of her entire crotch. We also acknowledged the large size of ad (a) shown at a shopping mall complex and that ads (b) and (c) were heavily displayed throughout a London Underground station, which consequently, would have made the images more prominent to passers-by.
Because the posters were sexually suggestive they were therefore, inappropriate for general outdoor display and warranted a placement restriction of not appearing within 100 m of schools. However, we acknowledged that Exterion Media and the other media owners MAC had used did not display the posters at locations within 100 m of a school.
On this point we investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social Responsibility), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.