U.K. Officials Say American Apparel Ad Is Too Close to Child Porn

Last Updated Sep 2, 2009 1:09 PM EDT

The British Advertising Standards Authority has banned an American Apparel ad for simulating child pornography. For anyone who has ever seen an AA ad, this will not come as a surprise.

The ad featured a 23 year old model, "Ryan," wearing shorts and a fleece hoody. In the UK version of the ad (small image), she is shown in progressive states of undress. A tamer U.S. version (large image) shows pretty much the same thing.

The ASA said the ad, which appeared in Vice magazine, did not violate the industry's "taste and decency" code given Vice's targeted audience. However, the ASA noted that the model's age was irrelevant and found that:
Because the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, we concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers.
The ASA also described AA's defense of its ad:
They reiterated that the ad did not portray the model as a sex object, nor did it portray her in a manner that was negative or exploitative. There was no suggestion that she had been coerced into appearing in the photographs or that she was doing so against her will. AA strongly refuted the complainant's belief that the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.
In many ways, the case can be summed up as, Who has the filthiest mind? ASA argues that AA is simulating kiddie porn; AA argues that ASA is seeing kiddie porn where none exists. You be the judge!

More importantly, it sends a warning to any advertiser considering using "barely legal" type models in ads: British ad regulators will apply a sensible and obvious principal, if it looks like kiddie porn -- even if it isn't -- you shouldn't be doing it.

Hat tip to Marketing Week.

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