Ad Standards upholds ANOTHER complaint against Honey Birdette ad

Other porn themed ads OK for kids, says Ad Standards [Updated]

Honey Birdette has racked up its 61st ad violation with another porn-style floor-to-ceiling shop window ad. The gargantuan image featured a woman straddling an object, head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth open.

From the complaint:

I object to global porn giant - Playboy - exposing non consenting members of the Australian public - adults and children alike - to its floor-to-ceiling pornified shop window ads. This corporate has a 70 year history of objectifying and exploiting women and girls. That it continues to do so - via its sex shop chain Honey Birdette's graphic, sexualised and explicit images - some with the added element of eroticising violence - in our suburbs and cities, is reprehensible. These ads are larger than life - please note their enormity using the life-size mannequin frame situated next to the digital ad screen as reference. They are unmissable to passers-by.

'Liva' - Honey Birdette shop window

Honey Birdette responded to the complaint to defend the ad:

Our model is riding a mechanical bull in the context of our Western-themed lingerie campaign, and is obviously not engaged in sexual activity.

Ad Standards disagreed:

The Panel noted that the woman was leaning over an object with her backside out of the frame of the shot and that she had her head tilted back with her mouth open. The Panel considered that the woman’s facial expression was indicative of sexual pleasure, and not a facial expression that would be associated with riding a mechanical bull. The Panel considered that the sexualised expression on the woman’s face in combination with the way the image had been cropped did create an impression that the woman was engaged in sexual activity.

The Panel considered that the context of the woman riding a mechanical bull was not clear in the image, and that the overall impression was of a woman engaged in sexual activity. The Panel considered that the depiction of a woman who appeared to be engaged in sexual activity was an overtly sexualised depiction. The Panel considered that the overtly sexual image was not appropriate for the relevant broad audience which would likely include children.

Ad Standards upheld the complaint on grounds that the ad 'did not treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience and did breach Section 2.4 of the Code'.

Once again, Ad Standards claimed it will continue to work with the relevant authorities regarding the issue of non-compliance. It is unclear who the 'relevant authorities' are, and what this continued work comprises. Ad Standards did not respond to a campaigner's email in which they were asked to provide details.*

Ad Standards gives nod to porn-themed ads for kids

Meanwhile, Ad Standards threw out complaints against other porn-inspired ads shown in the Playboy-owned sex shop's windows, effectively endorsing them as suitable viewing for children. Two of the images for 'Laura' featured full-frontals of a model in sheer green lace and mesh bra, briefs and stockings. A complainant objected to the ads on the basis that

  • the model's genital region was completely visible
  • the model was posed in a sexualised manner - eyes closed, mouth open
  • the gun, tilted upwards, very close to the model's face, was confronting

In the original complaint, the complainant wrote:

As an adult, I found this ad an extremely disturbing mix of porn themes and violence. I can't even begin to imagine how confronting/confusing this ad would be for a child - many of whom would be seeing this ad in the sex shop's window which is situated in a busy CBD pedestrian mall.

'Not overtly sexual': Ad Standards dismissed complaints against these Honey Birdette shop window ads

Comments from Ad Standards included:

  • The woman is posed in a confident manner and she is depicted as being in control of the situation
  • The woman is not engaging in sexual behaviour
  • The advertisement did not contain a depiction of sex
  • The advertisement featured a woman in lingerie which appeared to be transparent in places. The Panel noted that the advertisement contained a depiction of partial nudity.
  • In one image the woman was posed with her eyes shut and her mouth open. The Panel considered that while this facial expression was mildly sexualised it was not the focus of the image and the overall pose of the woman was not overtly sexual.

Spot the difference: According to Ad Standards, the same facial expression was 'indicative of sexual pleasure in 'Liva' (left) and 'mildly sexualised' + 'not the focus of the image' in 'Laura' (right).

Minority panel viewpoint shut down

After noting the relevant audience of the ad included children, a minority of the panel noted that it was not suitable for public display. From the Case Report

A minority of the Panel considered that the large size of the image and the suggestion of the woman’s genital region being visible through her underwear created an overall level of nudity that meant that the image was overtly sexual and inappropriate for the broad audience.

But majority - not concerns about community safety and well-being- rules at Ad Standards. Because the majority of the panel considered that 'the woman’s pose was not overly sexual' and that 'the overall impression of the advertisement was only mildly sexual', the complaint was dismissed.

Click image below to read full Case Report.

Same porn-y campaign, different ad standards

Ad Standards refused to even review this ad featuring a near-naked women, telling a campaigner that it was similar to other ads which Ad Standards had previously dismissed complaints against. 

There is no transparency around how often Ad Standards refuses to review community members concerns about harmful, objectifying and porn-themed ads displayed by the Playboy-owned sex shop chain. A supporter told us that Ad Standards once said they couldn't possibly review all the Honey Birdette ads they receive complaints for.

Ad Standards can't stop these ads - read more about its failings here.

The Champions of Change-led shopping centre landlords won't stop these ads - read more about their rubbish double standards here

We need a new ad system to rein in repeat ad offenders like Honey Birdette - ask your candidate now to stop sexist advertising! Find your candidate here.

*Update: Shopping Centre Council of Australia named as 'relevant authority' on Honey Birdette's porn-themed ads 

In a May 18 email, Ad Standards responded to a campaigner's questions, stating:

We are actively working with the Shopping Centre Council of Australia to address issues of non-compliance by retailers in shopping centres. This involves establishing protocols with SCCA members to facilitate an appropriate resolution to upheld complaints. Our objective is to ensure that advertisements, in any medium, meet community standards and that those that do not are removed.

Ad Standards also said it was committed to operating in accordance with the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) Principles and Standards of self-regulation Best Practice. The model is supposed to benefit the consumer, and have adequate sanctions which can be enforced.

But there are no sanctions. And Ad Standards has no capacity to enforce its rulings which often come weeks after ads have been replaced with more code-breaching, porn style ads.

And what good are protocols to get Honey Birdette's porn style ads out of shop windows when the system underpinning them is broken, or when vested interests like SCCA Chair Peter Allen (who is also CEO of Scentre Group - Honey Birdette's primary landlord) has already determined that Honey Birdette is "meeting its obligations" to uphold community standards in its shop window advertising?

Why does "working with the relevant authorities on the issue of non-compliance" look exactly like "working with vested interests to aid and abet repeat offenders"?

Until we have a new ad system with powers to pre-vet and penalise repeat offenders, we can only expect more porn themed shop window ads from Playboy-owned, Westfield-resident sex shop Honey Birdette.

See also

Self-regulated advertising: How many more examples of failure do we need?

BDSM porn-themed ads hosted by shopping centres found in breach of ad code of ethics

Will your candidate put the welfare of kids before porn industry profits?

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  • Collective Shout
    published this page in News 2022-05-17 00:38:25 +1000

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