Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Two poster ads displayed on bus shelters, for the clothing brand Nobody’s Child, seen in November 2015:
a. One ad featured a female model wearing a black jumpsuit and heeled shoes, sitting on the arm of a sofa with one leg bent in front of her resting on the sofa and her arms in a relaxed position. She was looking at the camera. Text stated “nobody’schild.com”.
b. The other ad featured the same model wearing a tartan dress, sitting on a chair facing towards the camera. One leg was slightly raised. Text stated “nobody’schild.com”.
The ASA received three complaints.
1. The complainants, who believed the poses and facial expressions of the model sexualised someone who they considered appeared to be a child, challenged whether the ads were irresponsible and offensive.
2. One complainant additionally challenged whether the ads were irresponsible and offensive because they believed the images, in conjunction with the brand name “Nobody’s Child”, implied the images were of a vulnerable child.
1. & 2. Nobody’s Child Ltd t/a nobody’schild.com said they appreciated that visual imagery was open to personal interpretation, but considered the model in the ads was not sexualised and would not be perceived as being a child or vulnerable. They said the model was 21 years old and they had chosen not to style her in heavy makeup or bright lipstick in order to avoid projecting any kind of vulgarity.
They said the name Nobody’s Child was intended to reflect the feeling their target audience experienced, that they were no longer children and were now their own person. They said the name was, therefore, recognition that their target audience had reached an age where they could make their own decisions and be their own people, rather than conveying vulnerability.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted that while the model was fully clothed in both ads, in ad (a) her breast was partially exposed. She leaned casually against a wall with one leg resting up on a sofa armrest, and looked directly into the camera with her mouth partially open. In ad (b) she sat in an over-sized chair with one leg slightly raised and her hands loosely clasped together, looking directly toward the camera. We considered that her poses and gaze in both ads were mildly sexually suggestive, and that her pose in ad (b) in particular also suggested vulnerability.
We understood the model featured in the ads was 21 years of age but considered she appeared younger, and that when shown in conjunction with the prominent brand name “nobody’schild.com”, would be regarded as appearing to be a child. In that context, we considered that the model’s poses implied vulnerability and sexual precocity. We therefore concluded the ads portrayed a model who appeared to be a child in a way that was sexually suggestive and could be perceived as being vulnerable. We concluded that the ads were irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ads breached 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).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Nobody’s Child Ltd t/a nobody’schild.com to ensure the images used in their ads, particularly when presented in conjunction with their brand name, did not sexualise those who appeared to be a child and depict them as being vulnerable.