Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 26 June 2020
Law stated as at: 2 July 2020
The ASA recently released a reminder for advertisers to carefully consider issues about body image in ads. In these coming summer months, we tend to see more body-related and holiday products (such as swimwear) being advertised. The ASA has previously upheld complaints that certain ads were socially irresponsible because they depicted unhealthy body “ideals”. For example, the ASA upheld complaints about an ad by Yves Saint Laurent in 2015 because the model was presented to look unhealthily underweight. Here are some top tips to consider when involving models in ads:
Posing and clothing
The ASA has stated that it does not look to make statements about the models themselves or their body proportions. Instead, the ASA focuses its rulings on how the models are presented and what effects this could have on the viewers.
In particular, the ASA will consider how different poses of the models can help create an appearance of being unhealthily thin. For example, a model may be posed in such a way that displays the bones in the torso or a particular gaunt or hollow appearance. The can be accentuated by the particular lighting or colour scheme of the ad, as well as the make-up on the model.
Furthermore, the clothing, accessories and shoes worn by the model may also impact the look of the model. If the clothing worn makes the models look unhealthily thin (by, for example, including shoes that may emphasise the thinness of the models’ legs), this may be seen as contributing factor.
The ad will be considered as a whole. The key question is whether the models are depicted in a way which makes them appear underweight or unhealthy.
Consider the target audience
The ASA will also take into account the context in which the ad is shown and whether the model presented in the ad is likely to be viewed as aspirational. Where an ad clearly targets and is likely to appeal to young people, advertisers should take extra care. The ASA has previously ruled that such models in these ads could be interpreted as representing those who might wear the clothing brand, and are therefore aspirational. Those ads should consequently not depict an unhealthy body image as being aspirational.
Not just clothes brands
Even if ad is not intended to sell clothing or beauty products, the ads should still take care to not include unhealthily underweight presentations of models. The ASA upheld against an ad for a travel magazine which, while it was not intending to advertise the model’s clothes or accessories, still included the model as a focal point of the ad. It was held that the angle of the camera and the model’s pose helped contribute to making the model look unhealthily thin.
Why this matters:
The ASA has previously issued upheld rulings against ads deemed to be irresponsible because they depicted or promoted unhealthy body “ideals”. Given the general public interest around this topic, some of these rulings were reported in the news. Businesses should carefully consider these issues before publishing their ads.