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Ad watchdog dismisses complaints over Gok Wan Target ad describing breasts as ‘assets’

Department store  Target has again been faced with a number of complaints relating to a women’s underwear campaign fronted by brand ambassador Gok Wan, with complainants arguing the ads are “offensive” due to having women’s breasts, which are described in the ad as an “asset”.

The complaints follow on from a number of homophobic complaints against the retailer and Gok Wan relating to an ad for Target bras in which he referred to women’s breasts as “bangers”.

Target stood by Wan, with the English fashion consultant returning last month in a new campaign for  the retailer’s Autumn season collection, including a spot for Target’s intimates collection.

A sample of the complaints submitted to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) include: “It is offensive to have anyone discuss women’s breasts (or any other body part) as an asset” and “Having an obviously homosexual man doing it does not make it more offensive. I was watching a program with my 14 and 12 year old daughters who had never, and should not have ever, heard breasts described as assets”.

Target defended the ad arguing the main target market is women and that advertising and its spokesman is in line with the company’s values.

In its submission it said:

“The complainants are offended by Gok referring to breasts as assets. One complainant is offended by the close up images of women in bras. A number of the complainants are also offended that a gay man should refer to women’s breasts as assets. One of the complaints appears offended that Target should be using a gay man in advertising. We respectfully disagree with the complainants. The target market for the advertising is women and the main message is that the Target range of underwear is accessible to the Target customer. We consider the advertisement to be appropriate and in line with Target’s brand values.”

Target said it “respectfully disagreed” with the complainants, many of whom seem to focus on Wan’s sexuality:

“Gok Wan was chosen as a brand ambassador for Target because of his personality and reputation, not his sexuality. He feels good about who he is as he is. He is playfully irreverent, colourful and fun. He has a great capacity for making other people feel good about themselves too. Target strongly believes that a person’s sexuality is irrelevant to their worth as a person. Target makes no apology for using a gay man in its advertising and we do not believe that this should be grounds for upholding a complaint.

“More importantly, Gok is a British style icon. The brands he has chosen to provide with his imprimatuer are Department Stores such as Sainbury’s in the UK and Target in Australia – not high end fashion houses. He is about making fashion accessible to everyone and making people feel good about themselves. This is completely in line with Target’s brand values. The Gok Campaign is about building confidence, looking and feeling fantastic and having fun. The majority of feedback that Target has received regarding the Gok Campaign, including the underwear advertisements, is that our customers are telling us they love the honesty and quirkiness of our language and imagery.”

The ASB cleared the Target ad of any breaching any guidelines, ruling: “the term “assets” is used in a positive manner and does not amount to a description of a part of a woman’s body which would be considered discriminatory or vilifying.

“The Board noted the advertisement uses the term “assets” and recognised that some members of the community may be offended by the reference to women‟s breasts as assets.

“The Board considered that the word “assets” in relation to a woman‟s breasts is not language which most members of the community would find to be strong, obscene or inappropriate.”

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