ASA refuses to ban ‘offensive’ M&S lingerie ad

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has refused to uphold public complaints that an M&S Limited Collection underwear advertisement on the underground was ‘offensive and inappropriate for display’ in a public location.

The moving digital poster ad, seen in London underground stations in October 2011, featured black and white images of two women looking out directly at viewers, posing and smiling as if in front of a mirror.

In the first image, the women were shown in their underwear and appeared to be in a bedroom getting ready to go on a night out. This image alternated with another of the same women fully dressed, as if out on the night in question.

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Three people complained to the ASA about the advert, claiming that the ad was offensive and inappropriate for display in a public location. One of the complainants also challenged whether the ad was unsuitable to be seen by children.

Marks and Spencer plc (M&S) stated that the ad was part of a series that was intended to showcase their Limited Collection of lingerie and clothing in a ‘brand-identifiable’ way.

It said ‘careful consideration’ went into the concept of the two girls getting ready for a girls night out, and then clothed, showcasing their outfits once they were out. It believed that the ad was not offensive or unsuitable for public display where it could be seen by children.

In a statement, the ASA wrote: “We considered that, whilst the ad showed the women posing in a flirtatious way and could therefore be seen as mildly sexual, the images were not sexually suggestive or explicit. We acknowledged that some people might have found the public display of the images of the women in their underwear to be distasteful, but noted the content of the ad reflected the clothing products being sold and considered that the alternating images clearly told a story about the women getting ready for a night out.

“We considered that, because the ad promoted lingerie and the images of the women posing in their underwear were juxtaposed with further images in which they were fully clothed, the ads were not unduly sexual in nature. We therefore concluded that the ad was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence or be considered unsuitable for public display in locations where it could be seen by children.”

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