Shein found to be in breach of Ad Standards for sexuality rule

Ad Standards has found ecommerce website Shein to be in breach of Section 2.4 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics (the Code): “Advertising shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience”.

The advertisement in question was an image on Shein’s website which was described as “a woman in a chain link thong bikini photographed from behind. The woman is straddling a chair covered in wool.”

There is an image that matches the above description on Shein’s website, although the exact image that was found to be in breach has been edited since.

An image similar to the Ad Standards description on Shein’s website at the time of writing

A total of three images were complained about to Ad Standards, however, only one of those images were found to be in breach of the Code.

One of the complaints made to Ad Standards stated: “I found it confronting and excessive – it’s not an adult site for adult wear. I ask why it has to be so suggestive.”

The Advertiser (Shein) did not provide Ad Standards with an initial response.

The Ad Standards Community Panel (the Panel) considered that the relevant audience would be consumers browsing the website and, given that Shein primarily sells women’s clothing, the relevant audience would likely be adult women.

When considering the complaints, a majority of the Panel found that the woman’s pose was highly sexualised which, combined with her near-naked buttocks “created a level of sexualisation which was not necessary for the promotion of the product”.

The image was then found to be in breach of Section 2.4.

In response to the findings, Shein stated: “We have established an internal review mechanism to constantly review the images of our products sold on our website. After receipt of the complaint, we have conducted a more rigorous self-review and confirm again that the images under discussion do not contravene with any Australian laws in the relevant respects.

“We care deeply about our users’ experience and feelings, as well as comments and suggestions from various social organisations and parties, including Ad Standards. We hereby confirm that we have already modified Image 2 of the advertisement in line with the Community Panel’s determination. Such modification was actually made long before the issuance of the case report.”


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