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sexually explicit? an ASA ruling finds that it depends on your position

29 April 2015

The ASA has today dismissed two complaints relating to an advert for the Tom Ford perfume Black Orchid, on a poster in Brick Lane, London. The ad features Cara Delevingne lying naked on her side, semi-immersed in water, with the side of her breast and buttock exposed.

Two complaints were lodged alleging the ad was inappropriate for display where children could see it and in close proximity to churches and mosques and that the ad was offensive because it was degrading and objectified women.

In response to the complaints Tom Ford asserted that the ad was intended to capture the “luxurious and sensual nature of the perfume” and that whilst the model was naked, the majority of her body was underwater and that crucially her buttocks were not presented in a sexual way.

In keeping with ASA standards, after a thorough assessment of the image, the ASA considered the model’s pose was “sensual and sexually suggestive” but not sexually explicit. The ASA stated the image was stylised and artistic and in-keeping with ads for beauty products where depictions of the female body were regularly used.

Whilst the ASA acknowledged that a large naked picture of a model has the potential to increase the ad’s visibility, the ASA believed that the size and location of the ad, on a busy urban street, would draw attention of passersby regardless of its content.

The ASA did not believe that ad was located closely enough to religious buildings or schools to warrant concern and noted that Brick Lane was a diverse and popular area.

The ruling highlights the need, when determining the suitability of risqué adverts, to have thought for the mantra – location, location, location (or should that be position, position, position)?

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