Clothing retailer Missguided has fallen foul of advertising rules for a spot during ITV's Love Island for objectifying women.
The ad, which aired on ITV Hub on 14 June, opened with a close-up of a woman’s mouth as she held a strawberry between her lips. It then showed young women in swimwear on a boat and on-screen text stated: "If you plan on wearing clothes this summer… we’ve got you covered… kind of."
The 30-second film then showed women on a beach with their legs apart in seductive poses, a woman running her hand up her inner thigh, a group of women in thong bikinis and another posing in a bikini with her legs astride on a motorcycle. On-screen copy at the end said: "SCORE 25% OFF WITH CODE BABE25."
The Advertising Standards Authority launched an investigation after the ad aired, following a complaint that it was offensive and irresponsible for overly sexualising and objectifying women.
Missguided was previously one of Love Island's sponsors and provided clothing for the contestants. The reality dating show involves a group of people living in a villa in Mallorca and is filmed under constant surveillance while they "couple up" for survival. I Saw It First replaced Missguided as a sponsor in the latest series.
When contacted by the ASA, Missguided said the ad was aimed at women under 30 years of age and it had tried to promote a particular lifestyle rather than just clothing.
Missguided said imagery that may be construed as sexual, including the image of the strawberry between a woman's lips, were merely "motifs used to create the lifestyle brand". Referring to the model who was running her hands up her thigh, Missguided said she was wearing full-length trousers and used a hand gesture to focus the eye of the viewer on the clothing. The shot of the models in thong bikinis was merely to show the bikini from behind.
The brand said the audience was intended to be viewers of Love Island, which aims to draw crowds through a show where contestants – both male and female – are dressed in swimwear during the day. The spot allowed for women to be body confident while remaining tasteful and was in keeping with the behaviours of the target audience, Missguided added.
Clearcast said the ad should be given an "ex-kids" scheduling restriction to keep it away from young children because of its sexual tone. However, because it was promoting a swimwear range, the body of the models would always be exposed and, while some of the poses did have a sexual tone, Clearcast did not consider them to be "overly sexualised".
In its ruling, published today, the ASA said the ad must not be shown again.
The ad watchdog said: "We acknowledged that there were similarities between the content of the ad and [Love Island]… However, we considered that some viewers who enjoyed the programme would nevertheless be seriously offended by advertising that presented women as sexual objects. Because the ad objectified women, we concluded that it was irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence."
Love Island's popularity is extending beyond the UK. A US version launched in July and earlier this month the show was parodied on Saturday Night Live.