Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Warehouse Fashions Online Ltd (Warehouse)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 21 June 2023
Law stated as at: 7 July 2023
The ASA challenged an advert posted by Warehouse on 5 February 2023. The ad had an image of a model wearing the jacket being promoted over a black high-cut bodysuit. The complainant challenged the ad as being irresponsible because the model appeared to be unhealthily thin.
Warehouse responded that the model was not presented as unhealthily thin and that it would be wrong to suggest so because she wore a UK size 8 and had a body mass index within the National Health Service standard of a healthy weight. They claimed to use models representing all body types and the only edits to images were to lighting and background. Warehouse commented that they understood the concerns of the complainant and reassured that models were presented in the best possible way.
The ASA found the advert to be in breach of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing Rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising) because the model appeared to be unhealthily thin. The model was wearing a close fitting bodysuit and a coat that obscured part of her leg. The pose of the model, combined with this clothing, made the model’s hip bone and collar bone appear particularly pronounced which gave the appearance of being unhealthily thin.
Warehouse was told that the ad cannot appear again in the form complained of and no future ads should display models as being unhealthily thin.
Why this matters:
The ruling highlights body image as a significant issue in the advertising industry and retailers should be careful in the way they portray models in their ads. This ruling demonstrates the importance of considering how an ad may be understood by viewers as even if a model is of a healthy weight, the image could be perceived as showing a model of an unhealthy weight.