Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Céline SA (Céline) and Maje SAS t/a Maje Paris
Where: United Kingdom
When: 20 September 2023
Law stated as at: 17 October 2023
The ASA has upheld complaints against two adverts featuring .
A paid-for advert in a Sunday newspaper magazine supplement featured a female model lying on the ground, leaning back, leaving her midriff exposed. The complainant believed the model to be unhealthily thin, and challenged whether the advert was irresponsible.
Céline stated that they had internal processes for ensuring that their ads did not depict underweight models. They understood that previously “upheld” ASA rulings had identified “irregular bodily proportions, facial gauntness, abnormally narrow waists…” as features likely to indicate that models were unhealthily thin. However, Céline believed that their advert did not include any of those features.
Céline stated that they had information confirming the model’s body mass index (BMI) fell within a healthy range, highlighted that the clothes worn were of standard sizes, that the pose was of someone comfortably relaxing in the sun, and that they had sought independent advice from a medical professional.
The ASA considered that the thickness of the belt worn stood in stark contrast to the model’s stomach and that the styling and pose drew particular attention to her exposed midriff and waist.
The ASA acknowledged that the model was wearing standard sized shorts, that she had a healthy BMI and that a GP’s opinion had been sought. However, the ASA stated that the advert’s audience would not have this information. Due to the pose and styling strongly emphasising the model’s narrow waist, the ASA considered that the advert gave the impression the model was unhealthily thin and so the ad was irresponsible.
A paid-for advert appeared on a social media platform featured a female model posing on a bicycle, wearing a mini skirt, and a one-shoulder crochet top. The complainant believed the model to be unhealthily thin and challenged whether the advert was irresponsible.
Despite the advertiser arguing that they were mindful of the importance of responsible advertising and that they understood the dangers of promoting unhealthily thin models, the complaint was upheld.
The ASA considered that the positioning of the model, sitting on the bike with her arms resting on the handlebars, promoted the unhealthily thin look. The ASA also referenced the model’s arms, fully visible in her one-shouldered top, which looked to be very slender and with prominent bones.
Further, the ASA mentioned the advert’s dark background which contrasted against the model’s light skin, which emphasised the thinness of her upper body. The ASA considered many other factors as to the model’s positioning in the advert and considered them to be purposefully chosen to make her appear unhealthily thin.
The ASA concluded that the advert was irresponsible and must not appear again in its current form. Maje Paris were told to ensure that their adverts were prepared responsibly and should not promote unhealthily thin figures.
Why this matters:
The ASA continues to focus on ensuring that advertising is prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society. In particular, advertisers should not present an unhealthy body image.
The Céline ruling is particularly interesting as the brand was able to provide evidence that the model was of a healthy weight and wearing standard sized clothing. However, the styling of the advertisement meant that an unhealthy body image was portrayed. This was echoed in the Maje Paris advertisement, where the ASA considered that the model had been purposefully positioned in a manner that appeared unhealthily thin.
The rulings are an importance reminder that, in addition to ensuring that appropriate models are used, brands should also always review the overall appearance of the final ad to ensure that the model may not be depicted in a manner that presents an unhealthy body image.