Warning to all UK advertisers: the merest suggestion of female carnality in a public place will now be punished by a rap over the knuckles from the Advertising Standards Authority.
That is the message from the regulator, which has now holed a second high-profile brand below the waterline. Last week it was Unilever’s Lynx. This week it is – wait for it – Marks & Spencer.
M&S corrupting our youth? That bastion of frumpy, middle class, Daily Mail-reading Middle England? Whatever is the world coming to? Next, they’ll be banning mince pies.
And yet, there it is in black and white, in the ASA’s official judgement: M&S is “socially irresponsible” because it has plied us with a “sexually overt” ad.
The ad in question is one of two which ran on bus sides during September, featuring models sporting M&S’ most gossamer lingerie – and little else. To forestall complaints about gratuitous sexiness (unsuccessfully as it turned out), M&S and agency RKCR/Y&R decided to gloss the posters with a ‘filmic finish’ – ie, it blurred them slightly. The ASA conceded that the context was relevant to the sector (how else do you display lingerie on a poster – on a washing line?).
It also acknowledged that M&S had taken considerable care not to make the models’ poses too provocative. But it drew the line at one particular execution: “We considered that the pose of the woman kneeling on the bed was overtly sexual, as her legs were wide apart, her back arched and one arm above her head with the other touching her thigh. We also noted that the woman in this image wore stockings.”
Shocking, a glimpse of stocking. You have been warned.
Mind you, it’s probably time someone brought M&S to book over its increasingly licentious conduct. Not a Christmas seems to go by these days without saturation scheduling of M&S’ most sexy models parading their underwear on our television screens.
If only M&S spent a little less money on its models and a little more on tarting up its far from glamorous interiors, perhaps we would all have less to complain about.