February 15, 2012

UK ASA: Continuing Limits On Sexuality in Advertising - This Time It Is Airline Tickets

Seller Beware: Consumer Protection Insights for Industry

The UK's advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two adverts by the low-cost airline Ryanair for being too sexually suggestive. The adverts, which were published in national newspapers, showed two female cabin crew members in their underwear. The headline stated "RED HOT FARES & CREW!!!" and advertised the airline's low fares and the 2012 cabin crew charity calendar. The adverts attracted complaints that they were sexist and objectified women, particularly female cabin crew, and were offensive and unsuitable for display in national newspapers. Defending the adverts, Ryanair said that the images of the women were taken directly from their 2012 calendar and, because the crew had volunteered to produce and promote the calendar, the images could not be said to be sexist or to objectify women. Ryanair also said that as similar images are often featured in the same media, the adverts could not be said to be unsuitable for public display. The ASA disagreed, finding that, though the adverts were not overtly sexual, the appearance, stance and gaze of the women were sexually suggestive. It also believed that most readers would interpret the images and the text "RED HOT…CREW!!!" as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour. As such, the adverts would be likely to cause widespread offence.

The ASA did not comment specifically on whether the images objectified women or were sexist, however it made clear that sexually suggestive adverts such as these are likely to cause offence and do not belong in the national newspapers. The trick of using a scantily-clad model to grab attention for (often unconnected) goods or services may be an old one, but beware that the ASA has been clamping down on them (see for example the recent adjudications on Marks & Spencer and Lynx).

© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2012 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.

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