Babyboo Instagram advert banned for objectifying women

The UK's advertising regulator forced Babyboo to remove its paid-for Instagram advert, which it said "was likely to cause serious offence".

Photo of instagram on a phone.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned fashion retailer Babyboo’s paid-for Instagram advert as it was deemed to have objectified women.

ASA concluded on April 14, 2021, that the company had last year breached rules for “lack of response and apparent disregard” for advertising regulations. The ruling states that the paid-for Instagram ad “was likely to cause serious offence” by presenting a harmful gender stereotype.

The video post at fault promoted lingerie for Halloween, worn by models with angel wings or animal accessories. The voiceover, taken from 2004 film ‘Mean Girls’, claimed “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total [bleeped out] and no other girls can say anything about it. The hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears”.

ASA received a complaint that the ad was sexist, objectifying and gave a harmful message to young women. This was upheld by ASA in a statement that took issue with two aspects of the post. Firstly, the voiceover poorly disguised the “derogatory” term “slut”, and secondly, one specific shot of models on a bed depicted poses that “were unnecessarily sexualised and had the effect of objectifying the women”.

ASA similarly considered that the description, “hard-core girls”, encouraged young women to aspire to the most extreme outfits.

ASA concluded: “While there was nothing inherently wrong with dressing in the way shown in the ad, or having multiple sexual partners, we considered that linking those things with the denigrating term ‘slut’, and implying women should aspire to being objectified, was problematic.”

Babyboo’s lack of response or attempt to resolve the complaint likewise led to ASA’s decision.

The ruling exemplifies the ethics that ASA published on International Women’s Day. Its article stated that “objectification and sexualisation are different but often overlapping issues”.

Admitting that some marketers persistently believe sex sells, ASA strongly discouraged adverts that “effectively reduce [women] to physical and/or sexual objects”. The ruling on Babyboo’s Instagram evidently considered “the denigrating term ‘slut’” to lower the advert from sexualisation to objectification.

Although ASA acknowledged that the voiceover referenced a film, its statement decided “it was presented out of context and was likely to be taken at face value”.

ASA’s International Women’s Day article also warned against this kind of gimmick – “don’t assume that using humour or innuendo will mitigate the harmful or offensive effects of an ad”.

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