Watchdog rules against lingerie brand Honey Birdette showing bondage Santa in ads

An Australian lingerie brand’s Christmas ads which showed a bound and gagged Santa Claus has been ruled against by the Ad Standards Board for “excessive violence” and “highly sexualised imagery”.

honey birdette silent night

Honey Birdette had run ads in its shop windows showing a woman in lingerie in different situations with Santa Claus, including one posing with her foot on his lap while he was bound and gagged with the tagline “Silent night..”.

One complaint against the ad said the images show Santa in a “bondage” situation, which draws the attention of children, adding: “When they look closely they are confronted with highly sexual imagery that is completely age-inappropriate and would be disturbing to many.” 

Honey Birdette defended the ad saying “in order to market and advertise lingerie, we need to show a model wearing it,” but saying it made sure to do that in a way which “empowers (women) rather than demeans or degrades them”.

They added: “The image in question actually shows a very confident and composed woman in control of her environment. Please be assured that we put a lot of time and effort into to ensuring that it is not offensive whilst also representative of our brand.”

The second image was cleared by the Ad Standards Board

This second image was cleared by the Ad Standards Board

The board dismissed complaints against one of the ads which, showed Father Christmas laying prone on the floor with the tagline “Knock Santa’s socks off!”, as it showed the woman in a “strong and confident” position and was consistent with other ads in shopping centres.

However the board decided the ‘Silent night’ ad went further than the first one by putting the woman in a position with her foot on Santa’s lap and holding her finger up towards her parted lips “the overall impression is more sexualised” than the other ad.

It concluded: “The Board considered that the second version of the advertisement did not treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience and determined that it did breach Section 2.4 of the Code.”

Honey Birdette responded to the ruling saying the ads had been removed despite experiencing its best-ever sales of the ranges shown in the ads.

“As Honey Birdette continues to grow rapidly we will always strive to uphold the brand’s image and values. Empowering women is our main focus,” they added.


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