American Apparel has made a name for itself over the years through controversy: It is famous for catching attention with raunchy ad campaigns featuring young-looking models that have fallen foul of the public and advertising regulators on taste and offence grounds. Its former CEO Dov Charney was fired last year after allegations of misconduct.
When new CEO Paula Schneider came on board in December she vowed, in a statement announcing her appointment, to “make American Apparel a better company.”
It appears she still has some work left to do.
The UK advertising regulator has banned a product listing on American Apparel’s UK website, featuring a female model wearing a spandex thong bodysuit (the full NSFW ad is below.) One of the images was taken from behind the model, with her buttocks visible. In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholds the advertising code on marketing material on brand websites as well as paid-for digital advertising.
The product image sparked a complaint challenging that the image was “irresponsible and offensive” because it portrayed an image of a model who looked under 16-years-old.
The ASA upheld the complaint on the grounds that the model had a “youthful appearance” and that her expression and pose were likely to be interpreted as sexual in nature and could appear to sexualize a child. It concluded the ad was irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence.
The regulator told American Apparel to ensure future ads do not include images that inappropriately sexualize young women, or images that were likely to cause serious offence.
In its defence, American Apparel said the model shown was 20-years-old. The retailer added that the ad simply depicted the advertised product from various angles, one of which included an image of the thong component of the bodysuit, which was therefore consistent with the standards held by similar ads on its site.
This is not the first time American Apparel has been rapped by the ASA for ads that appear to sexualize younger looking models.
Last September, the ASA banned two American Apparel website ads, which featured a model wearing a pleated school-style skirt and bending over to reveal her underwear. The watchdog said the ads were “gratuitous and objectified women, and were therefore likely to cause serious and widespread offence.”
In 2013 the ASA banned two separate ads, one of which showed a female model’s bare bottom, and another which closed on various parts of a female model’s groin, buttocks, and breasts.
And the clothing brand has also come under fire twice in 2012 and once in 2009 for ads which the ASA deemed sexualized models who looked younger than 16-years-old.
More cynical readers might assume American Apparel keeps producing risque creative deliberately so its advertising gets banned, for the extra free publicity ASA adjudications bring with them.
Here’s the most-recently banned ad:
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