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One sided censorship...

ASA bans Calvin Klein advert featuring a little side breast

Link Here11th January 2024

Three posters for Calvin Klein, seen in April 2023:

  • a. The first poster featured the singer FKA Twigs who was shown wearing a denim shirt that was drawn halfway around her body, leaving the side of her buttocks and half of one breast exposed. Text at the top of the poster stated Calvins or nothing.

  • b. The second poster, which appeared alongside ad (a), featured the model and media personality Kendall Jenner who was shown, from side-on, topless with her hands held across her bare chest, and a pair of jeans on her bottom half. At the top of the poster was the same text as ad (a).

  • c. The third poster featured Kendall Jenner who was shown lying on her back, wearing underwear and pulling down a pair of jeans past her hips. Text superimposed, and which went partly across Jenner's crotch, stated Calvins or nothing.

The ASA received two complaints. The complainants, who believed the images were overly sexualised, challenged whether the ads were:

  1. offensive and irresponsible, because they objectified women; and

  2. inappropriate for display in an untargeted medium. Response

Calvin Klein Inc. said the ads were similar to ads they had been publishing in the UK for many years. They said that they were well known for being a pioneering and progressive brand that engaged in a range of equity and equality focused partnerships. In their view, the ads did not overly sexualise Kendall Jenner or FKA Twigs and were not irresponsible.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld for image (a) only

The ASA understood the ads were for the Calvin Klein brand and their range of clothes, and that they formed part of a wider campaign that also included images of well-known men. However, not all of the ads in the campaign were displayed together. We therefore assessed the ads under investigation on the merits of their individual content and the context in which they were displayed.

Ad (a) showed FKA Twigs modelling a denim shirt. FKA Twigs' buttocks and breast were exposed, and her shirt was draped over one shoulder and drawn halfway across her body. We considered the image's composition placed viewers' focus on the model's body rather than on the clothing being advertised. The ad used nudity and centred on FKA Twig's physical features rather than the clothing, to the extent that it presented her as a stereotypical sexual object. We therefore concluded ad (a) was irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence.

The images had appeared on posters, an untargeted medium, where they were likely to be seen by children and adults. We considered all of the ads included images of women who were sexualised to a degree. We understood the posters had not been placed within 100 metres of a school. Notwithstanding the fact that ad (a) was unsuitable on the grounds of objectification, we considered whether the level of sexualisation in each of the ads was appropriate for general display.

Ad (a) depicted FKA Twigs with a shirt partially draped around her body, and in doing so showed half of one breast and the side of her buttocks. Her nudity and facial expression, including a direct gaze and open mouth, gave the image an overall sexual overture. We therefore considered ad (a) was overtly sexual and was not suitable for display in an untargeted medium.

Ad (a) must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Calvin Klein Inc. to ensure that future ads did not irresponsibly objectify women and were targeted appropriately.

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