An ad for men’s clothing store Roger David featuring a teenage girl with the word “slave” bar coded on her shoulder , “gagged” with a Union Jack in her mouth, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Board because it presents her as a sexual object.
The ad was for the British men’s clothing range New Love Club.
One of the complaints to the ASB stated:
The girl looks underage, dishevelled and is inappropriately posing with something in her open mouth and her bare shoulder with slave written on it with a “barcode” as if she is somehow for sale or belongs to someone. It is offensive due to its representation of young girls as vulnerable and slaves and lacks sensitivity to the growing child exploitation and sexist depiction of girls and women.”
But Roger David defended the ad which was contained in an email to its customer database as “ironic”. It told the ASB: “The woman used in the campaign was 18 years of age at the time that the photograph of her was shot. She is a student of History, Spanish, and English, and is also a model in the United Kingdom.”
It added: “New Love Club produced the image of the woman as a comment on youth and the national debt that now rests on their shoulders and as an ironic patriotic comment on capitalist recruitment and identity. Roger David believes that these same issues are relevant for young people in Australia, hence the use by Roger David of this image in its Australian marketing for the New Love Club brand of clothing.”
The company went on: “The relevant audience for this advertisement is young men. Roger David strongly believes that young men would relate to this image, and would not see it as shocking or exploitative.”
But the ASB ruled:
“The Board noted that the girl in the image was 18 but considered that she is depicted in a way that makes her appear younger than 18.
“The Board considered that the overall impression of the part of the advertising material which depicted the girl was that of a girl presented as a sexual object – due to a combination of factors in particular the age of the girl, the text ‘new love club’ and the tattoo of the word ‘slave’ on her arm.
“The Board also considered that the image of the girl could be seen to be suggestive of the girl being held against her will – with the ‘slave’ reference on her arm and the depiction of her with an object filling her mouth which, in the Board’s view, evoked a sense of the girl being ‘gagged’.”
Despite Roger David telling the ASB that it would discontinue the campaign, at the time of posting it remains on the store’s website.