Three ads, which appeared in high-end fashion and interior magazines, including Vogue and World of Interiors, showed the woman with her torso bound, and in one with a distressed expression and her kimono open to expose her thighs.
Bisazza, the advertiser, which makes mosaic tiles, said the ads were created by a renowned Japanese photographer whose work often featured Oriental women who are bound according to the ancient rite of bondage.
Bisazza felt the images were artistic and disagreed with the notion that the ads were demeaning towards women or condoned sexual violence towards women.
Vogue considered the ad it featured was an iconic image of a historical Japanese tradition that was no longer in practice. One reader had complained.
World of Interiors and Wallpaper* said their magazines targeted intelligent and well-travelled readers who were adept at understanding the complexities behind certain notions in art and design.
Elle Decoration also noted its readers’ design consciousness and felt the ads were arresting but acceptable within the context of modern art.
The ASA considered that although some readers had found two of the ads distasteful, the images were artistic and highly stylised and appeared in both high fashion and upmarket interior magazines. These ads were not deemed to require any further action.
However, the watchdog considered the ad that featured the geisha visibly upset and with her kimono pushed up to expose her thigh, had caused serious offence to some readers.
Despite the stylised nature of the image, it felt the ad could be seen to imply that sexual violence had occurred or was about to take place.
The ad must not appear again in its current form.