Brand Purpose Body Positivity ASA

The ASA made a right boob of banning the Adidas ad

By Toni Gaventa, Business director

May 12, 2022 | 4 min read

This week, the ASA banned an Adidas ad that showed bare breasts. Here, Toni Gaventa, business director at Truant, calls out the ad watchdog for its actions and asks that it instead helps empower brands to go further in promoting body positivity.

Truant social campaign calling out the ASA

Truant campaign calling out the ASA ad ban / Truant

I’m angered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling on banning Adidas’s allegedly ‘gratuitous’ boobs campaign. It reeks of the ASA banning ads that draw attention to the realness of the female form, at a time when the industry body should instead be supporting cultural issues such as celebrating real women.

The intentions of the ASA are overall fair and commendable. I’m fully on board with an industry body that ensures advertising is not misleading, harmful or offensive. But I have an issue with the hypocrisy of its mission statement, ‘to make every UK ad a responsible ad.’ Is that not exactly what the banned Adidas ad is doing? Being a responsible and representative brand?

As highlighted by the current Mental Health Awareness Week, we are living in tumultuous times. The mental health crisis in the UK is real. And while I’m not in any way suggesting that this Adidas advert would solve this crisis, it would definitely help the six in 10 women who feel negatively about their body image.

The ad is not sexual at all. If it featured male instead of female nipples, would it have been banned? (We’re hoping to find out through this social campaign that was launched just this morning.) The ad was merely shining a light on real women and our very different – but just as amazing – imperfect bodies. Because guess what? There is no such thing as perfection.

Unfortunately, that’s not the view of under-18s, 65% of whom thought there was an ‘ideal’ body type compared with 45% of adults. As a mum of two boys, this stat is alarming. I want my children to grow up surrounded by images of real people, not the fake and unrealistic shit you get on the likes of Instagram, OnlyFans and porn sites.

Let me be clear – it’s not just a pornography problem. The rise of social media has a lot to answer for too. When I was growing up, I didn’t have an internet connection on my phone (although I did have Snake, which was pretty cool). But today, 87% of children in the UK aged between 12 and 15 have a social media profile, giving rise to even more unrealistic representations of women. Luckily the ASA hasn’t got quite the same power in this space, so Adidas is still getting its message across. But for how long?

As an industry, we should be making a collective stand. Not only should we celebrate and reward more realistic campaigns like Bodyform’s ’Womb Stories’ or Dove’s ’Real Beauty,’ but we should also push the ASA to allow brands to go even further in promoting imagery that goes against the porn perfection grain.

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