Who: The Jury for Ethical Practices (JEP)
When: 15 November 2016
The Belgian Jury for Ethical Practices (JEP) is a self-regulatory institution. Its primary goal is to supervise advertising in Belgium and regulate its fair nature. JEP investigates the complaints it receives from the public and provides advice to advertisers, advertising agencies and the media, all of which are also members of JEP.
After having received as many as 13 complaints, JEP investigated the latest advertising campaign distributed by Calvin Klein. The advertising image shows a young woman wearing leggings and a bra, sitting down and taking a selfie. She is sitting in a suggestive position that draws attention to her chest. ‘I take what I want in #mycalvins’ is written underneath the image.
The investigation resulted in the decision by JEP to urge Calvin Klein to stop spreading the advertising campaign. In its decision, JEP emphasised that advertising for lingerie showing a woman in undergarments is not in itself an issue, because there is a link between the advertisement and the products sold.
The jury considered that in the Calvin Klein advertising image the emphasis is not on the product but instead on the woman and refers to the practice of young people exchanging erotic selfies that are published/shared on social media afterwards. Calvin Klein’s image shows a very young woman taking a selfie in a position that emphasises her chest; the focus is not on the lingerie that she is wearing; rather, it is on her young self. Moreover, the slogan printed underneath the picture, with “I’ll take what I want in #mycalvins” written in this way – with the hash tag – makes you think of the social media platform on which these types of photos are published.
Taking into account the current social context and the problem resulting from erotic selfies being shared online amongst young people (most of the time, against their will), JEP considers that the advertisement trivialises this phenomenon issue and is therefore inappropriate. In light of the foregoing, JEP concluded, that this advertisement is not compliant with proper social responsibility within the meaning of Article 1 of the Code of the International Chamber of Commerce. Thus, JEP has asked Calvin Klein to no longer advertise use the campaign.
The decisions of JEP are not binding from a legal point of view. Nevertheless, all media respect the decisions of JEP. The members of JEP being advertisers, agencies and media have committed to only publish socially responsible and ethical advertising and have agreed to implement the decisions made by JEP.
If the advertiser does not stop spreading the campaign, thereby acting in violation with the decision of JEP, JEP can suspend the campaign by asking the mass media to no longer publish or spread the advertscampaign. In practice this hardly ever happens. Usually, the advertisers will modify the advertisement/campaign or terminate its publication and distribution immediately following the first decision by JEP.
Why this matters:
All the complaints are published in a database on the website of JEP. JEP provides a description of the relevant advertisement as well as of the complaint. This database is public and can be consulted by anyone at any time. Companies of which the advertisements are submitted to JEP and mentioned in the database of JEP could suffer reputational damage because of this.
In the event of any doubt about what is the correct and fair nature of an advertising campaign, JEP can be requested by the advertiser to advise on an advertising campaign before it is published.