The move is a reminder that the big difference between advertising in the U.S. and Europe is that here in America companies can say pretty much whatever they like, no matter how offensive (i.e. this anti-Semitic vodka billboard); whereas over there individual ads and entire campaigns are often censored for reasons of taste and political correctness.
The ads in question were part of Lynx’s “Can she make you lose control?” web campaign, featuring model Lucy Pinder. (Lynx is marketed as Axe in the U.S.) One ad showed Pinder dressed in lingerie while bending over an oven while cooking a turkey. Others showed her washing a car, eating an “ice lolly,” applying lip gloss and eating whipped cream off her finger. You get the idea, I’m sure.
In the U.K., the ad biz is overseen by the ASA, a quasi-governmental body, which listens to complaints from consumers about ads that allegedly overstep its rules. The system is voluntary but widely adhered to. Content bans are relatively common in the U.K. (usually for taste rather than political reasons). It is especially vigilant when it comes to ads that might be racist.
Just 10 people complained about the Lynx oven ad, on the grounds that it was “offensive, because it featured sexually provocative content and was degrading to women”:
The ASA upheld the complaint and lo and behold, Pinder’s blog on Lynx’s web site has now disappeared. Here’s a screen shot of the dead link:
Sure, Pinder’s blog was simply PR for the campaign but this is the bottom line: 10 people complained and an entire ad campaign and its blog have now been wiped from the record in Britain.
The ASA also received 97 complaints about this Lynx ad (at right). Like the oven ad, complainants found it “offensive because it was sexually suggestive, provocative, indecent, glamorized casual sex, and because it objectified and was demeaning to women.”
Notice that at the ASA, being “sexually suggestive” and “provocative” are essentially the same as being “demeaning to women.”
While both ads are certainly cheesy and portray women in the most unimaginative way possible, there is a case to be made that the oven ad is actually making an ironic joke about the silliness of the idea that Pinder will cook you dinner in her underwear if you use Lynx deodorant. As for the shower ad — it just seems tame.
Perhaps the ASA was under the influence of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, who famously confused the difference between “sexy” and “sexist”:
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