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Too thin to model - ASA bans ads

Just a day after Sports Illustrated releveled their first 'inclusive' runway show in the US, the ASA banned two ads from clothing retailer Motel Rocks after complainants challenged whether the models looked unhealthily thin - making the ads irresponsible. Maybe the two shouldn't be contrasted, in terms of scale of impact they are obviously in different leagues, but I can't help but wonder why is it always two steps forward, one back?

Twice a year, or so, the ASA bans ads in the UK for featuring models that look too thin.  This, by contrast to the advertising regulators on the continent, is relatively infrequent. This might be because the ASA's message of responsible advertising has finally sunk in or might be that they aren't receiving as many complaints as the regulators on the continent. Either way, marketers are reminded at least bi-annually of the importance of featuring health looking models in their ads. 

We are often asked by retail and fashion clients to report on the ASA's position on featuring very thin models in advertising. The position has remained unchanged for a number of years now - showing models that are unhealthily thin is a breach of CAP Code Rule 1.3, the marketers obligations to act responsibly - Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.   

In this case the ASA highlighted the following as their rationale for the ban:

- Ad 1: the models legs looked very thin - her thighs appeared to be the same size as her calves and out of proportion with the remainder of her body. The lighting, camera angle and model's positioning all exaggerated this impression.

- Ad 2: the cut of the dress and positioning of the model made her arm and shoulders appear very thin, and her bones appear prominent. The positioning of her left arm made her upper arm appear thinner than her elbow joint. 

In each case, the ad made the relevant model look unhealthily thin and the ad was therefore deemed  irresponsible.

The images (one shown here) are frankly disturbing and it is good to see that the ASA has taken action in this case. I look forward to reporting, in hopefully the not too distant future, that the ASA has had no need to ban any ads containing unhealthily thin models but until then marketers please remember to prepare your ads with a sense of responsibility. It doesn't seem to complicated - to me anyway...


the model look unhealthily thin and that the ad was irresponsible

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