Ad Standards upholds first complaint under new body image code

The Ad Standards Community Panel has upheld the first complaint about body image since it tightened its rules about the portrayal of body image in 2018.

The change to the AANA Code of Ethics added body image to section 2.6, which which prohibits advertising which depicts material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety. The new rule was introduced to serve as a reminder of the harm unrealistic body images, shapes or features can cause to consumers.

Specifically, the rule is defined as: “Advertising must not portray an unrealistic ideal body image by portraying body shapes or features that are unrealistic or unattainable through healthy practices.” This also covers digitally altered images to the extent in which bodies are no longer realistic or attainable.

The case that drew the attention of the panel in August followed a complaint about images of models displaying Calvin Klein lingerie on its website. The complainant accused the images of the model as being “pro-anorexia” and leading to “young impressionable people” thinking the “unrealistic and unhealthy models are what people should look like.”

Calvin Klein defended itself, stating it is “committed to demonstrate diversity of model talent in terms of shape, bust size, colour and body size, reflecting the breadth of its consumer base,” directing the panel to its ‘plus size’ website which uses curvy models as an example.

The Calvin Klein ‘Plus Size’ site was used as an example of its body diversity

The brand also defended the model, describing her figure as “healthy, slim and toned”, “featured in strong, confident poses”.

However, the panel believed that whilst it could not judge whether the woman was healthy or not, “most members of the community would consider that the image had been digitally altered and that such a depiction is irresponsible and promotes an unrealistic body image”. This decision was made given the visibility of the model’s ribs and collarbones, thinness of upper arms and wrists and a significant gap between her thighs, which the panel considered could have been digitally altered.

Subsequently, the panel upheld the complaint and Calvin Klein removed the images from the website.


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