ASA bans provocative lingerie billboards

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has announced that it will be taking a firmer line when considering complaints about ‘sexualised imagery’ in outdoor advertising.

The aim is to ensure that children are appropriately protected from ‘irresponsible sexual imagery’.

The ASA will be taking decisions on a case-by-case basis and will consider complaints that it receives about sexual imagery in light of a new report it has received on the public’s views from the Mothers’ Union.

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Mildly sexual images, which feature models that are not holding a sexually suggestive’ pose, are unlikely to be banned, but the ASA will take into account the ability of advertisers to restrict the placement of their outdoor advertising, for example within 100m of schools.

ASA Chairman Lord Smith said: “As we make judgments on behalf of the public it is crucial that we continue to listen to and understand their concerns. Our engagement with parents and young people in Wales has been a fascinating and valuable exercise. We have learned some lessons; we know that we do not always get it right – the strength of feeling about untargeted ads of a sexual nature was particularly telling – and that feedback is already being taken on board."

While particular focus will be placed on adverts placed in areas where they are likely to be viewed by children, some images will be banned irrespective of location.

These include types of imagery where a woman in lingerie pulls down the side of her knickers and bra strap in an ‘overly sexual and seductive way’ or where couples are depicted in an ‘overtly sexual embrace.’ In the latter case, the lingerie, clinch and facial expressions will all be taken into account when considering the overall impression.

Key questions to consider

Although not exhaustive, characteristics that the ASA might consider sexually suggestive or overtly sexual are:

• Poses suggestive of a sexual position: the parting of the legs, accentuation of the hip etc.
• Amorous or sexually passionate facial expressions
• Exposure of breasts, including partial
• Poses such as hands on the hips, gripping of hair in conjunction with a sexually suggestive facial expression
• Images of touching oneself in a sexual manner, such as stroking the legs or holding/gripping the breasts
• Suggestion in facial or bodily expression of an orgasm
• Images of suggestive undressing, such as pulling down a bra strap or knickers
• Ads which draw undue attention to body parts, such as breasts or buttocks, in a sexual way
• Ads which show people in poses emulating a sexual position or alluding to sexual activity and
• Overtly sexual lingerie such as stockings, suspenders or paraphernalia such as whips and chains.

How the ASA will judge complaints

When considering complaints the ASA will take into account:

• the nature of the product advertised
• the context of the ad and its location
• the medium in which the ad appears, including the size of the advertisement
• the audience and
• the likely response of that audience.

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