Ad Standards Board green lights sexualised ad campaign because women wear bikinis at the beach

Larger than life graphic of woman on the side of a bus 'not overtly sexualised'


The above photo didn't capture the entire length of the bus. The full image used for the bus ad can be found here.


A complaint was recently submitted to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) about an ad for tattoo removal on the side of a Gold Coast Bus. The complaint was promptly dismissed as the ASB had already received and dismissed complaints about the outdoor ads in 2015.

In its case report dated 26/08/2015 the ASB stated that it had considered whether the ad breached section 2.2 of the code -

Advertising or Marketing Communications shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience

but not section 2.4

Advertising or marketing communications should not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading of any individual or group of people.

It is on this basis that the ASB had dismissed complaints about this and two other related ads. The ASB concluded in part:

“…the advertisement was not overtly sexualised or inappropriate for a broad audience which would include children.”

“…the image of a model in a bikini is not inconsistent with the attire worn by many residents and visitors to the Gold Coast area.”

Click here to read the full Case Report from the Advertising Standards Board. 

Details of a recent complaint (February 2016) to the Ad Standards Board:

The model is laying down on her back in a passive, sexualised pose and positioned in such a way (knees up, back arched) to emphasise her body and sexual appeal rather than tattoo removal. The use of a sexually objectified woman in a passive, sexualised pose to draw attention to a product or service is exploitative and degrading to women.

The text accompanying the ad states "Picosure Laser Tattoo Removal" with a web address

The advertisement is for tattoo removal which logically would involve images of tattoos (and perhaps evidence of their removal). Any number of images could have been used to communicate this, but the business chose a sexualised image that is so large it has the potential to distract from the product and service advertised rather than promote it. The image is stylised in such a way that it wouldn't be out of place within the pages of the now defunct Zoo Weekly. 

This larger than life image - so large the woman's body was aligned with the bottom of the bus and her bent knees were cut off the top of the picture - was visible to my daughter in the car as we drove past and any child in the public space. What does this ad teach girls and boys about the value and role of women in our culture? 

Other images from the ad campaign via Facebook


Have you seen an ad that employs sexualisation or sexual objectification of women and girls? 

Even if the Advertising Standards Board dismisses your complaint, it is still worth making sure your complaint is recorded. 

Click here to lodge a complaint 

Click here to read more about the Advertising Standards Board and Ad industry self-regulation

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  • Yvonne Richmond
    commented 2016-03-15 22:07:01 +1100
    The Gold Coast. Family friendly holiday destination? Debatable! I used to live there but being a female I got over the blatant sexism. 4 strip clubs all within 5 minutes from my apartment!!! On the Gold Coast, sex sells!! At least the female sex anyway. Every corner you turn it’s in your face. From sporting events like car races (where stripper services are advertised on billboards being towed on car trailers all day long around the busy streets, to beach volleyball (where only female participants wear tight and tiny uniforms). Therefore it’s not uncommon to see advertising like this on the side of a bus. My first reaction was always, well anger, to: that the business model of the company doing the advertising isn’t all that wonderful if they need to use sexualized images of people, almost always females, usually of a certain size and shape, (slim and busty), age, ( teens to 20’s), and even skin colour, (white), to attract attention. My second reaction was always to question whether males would use this business, and would males go to the beach too and would males wear speedo style swimwear like the male surf lifesavers do? The answer was usually yes! So my third reaction or question would then be that if the advertisers don’t use males to sell whatever and whenever and wherever, then why use or promote females this way in the public arena? (In our faces!!!) It’s sexist and sexism, ageism and even racism, pure and simple!
  • Trish Cahill
    commented 2016-02-24 13:19:24 +1100
    I don’t know why we bother complaining to the Ad Standards Board. They really do nothing when presented with complaints about these types of ads. I have just received yet another dismissal response with regard to the “Strippers” ad on Hoddle Street. They continuously ‘rule’ in favour of the advertiser, and fail to see these ads as objectifying women. They don’t care at all that children are forced to view this imagery all around them. Just listen to some of their justifications within the dismissal letter: “… the context of a service which provides strippers and topless waitresses…. with their backs turned and no faces visible, this is suggestive of being more of a modesty issue, not as objectifying of the women…” I can’t believe they used “strippers” and the word “modesty” in the same sentence! And how about this little nugget: The advertiser stated in it’s response to the complaints that “…no sexual acts are offered through the agency…” – however, the Ad Standards Board, in their dismissal letter, state: “The Board noted that the area in which this billboard is displayed is well-known for brothels and considered that the advertisement is relevant to the area in which it is advertised….”. I mean – SERIOUSLY? Is THIS the only organisation that we have to address our complaints to? They are totally and utterly contradictory, uninformed and extremely useless.
  • @ tweeted this page. 2016-02-22 19:01:27 +1100
    Ad Standards Board green lights sexualised ad campaign because women wear bikinis at the beach #NotBuyingIt

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