Sexual imagery in outdoor ad cleared by watchdog

A complaint about the sexual content of a Dolce & Gabbana perfume ad near a shopping centre has been rejected by the advertising watchdog, prior to stricter guidelines on imagery in outdoor advertising coming into force.

The nine-second film shows model David Gandy kissing a woman and untying her bikini top. It was displayed on a digital poster near Westfield shopping centre in west London.

The complaint, made in July, challenged whether the sexual content in the ad was offensive and unsuitable for an untargeted medium that could be seen by children.

The ASA reasoned that the ad did not contain any explicit nudity or sexual content, and was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. The authority accepted that the majority of people viewing the clip were over the age of 16.

The ruling on the complaint was made ahead of the ASA introducing tougher guidelines for the use of sexual imagery in outdoor ads, which came into effect in October.

An ASA spokesman said: "While we would stress that this does not mean that the outcome of this particular case would have been different [under the new code], advertisers do need to be mindful of our tightened position moving forward."

The changes were made as part of the industry's response to recommendations made by the Government-commissioned Bailey review on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

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 the ad appears in and the size of the ad and the audience and the likely response of that audience.

Under the new guidelines from the ASA images that are not sexual or more than mildly sexual, such as pictures of women in bikinis or men without their tops on, will still be allowed.

Images that could be viewed as sexually suggestive, such as pictures of women with their legs astride or wearing sexy lingerie in a seductive pose, will be acceptable in some locations but not areas of particular relevance for children.

The list includes pictures of women who are pulling down on their underwear in a sexual manner or pictures of couples who are embracing in an overtly sexual way.

In this case P&G Prestige Products, which handled the marketing for the perfume, said the film had been originally been prepared for TV broadcast and had been approved by Clearcast to be broadcast on TV with an ex-kids restriction.

It admitted it did not consider that an ad's suitability for outdoor advertising had to be judged separately from its suitability for TV advertising.

P&G said it was mindful of societal concerns about sexualised imagery in outdoor advertising. Nonetheless, although the ad was sensual, it thought it fell short of the elements of sexuality seen in other ads which had had complaints upheld against them in relation to harm and offence.

P&G said it had set up a senior-level body to review all outdoor advertising for their fragrances from the perspectives of harm, offence and social responsibility, to avoid complaints in the future.

Ocean Outdoor, the site's owner, said it had not received any complaints. It said it thought the ad was suitable to be aired on the outdoor screen because similar ads had also run on TV with no post-watershed requirements, including during programmes and on TV channels which might appeal to children.

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