Ben Bold
Jan 11, 2024

Calvin Klein FKA twigs ad banned for objectifying women

The three ads were seen by complainants in April 2023

Calvin Klein FKA twigs ad banned for objectifying women

A poster ad for Calvin Klein using a scantily clad image of FKA twigs has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (the UK's regulator of advertising) for objectifying women and appearing on an untargeted medium.

However, two similar ads featuring Kendall Jenner escaped censure.
The first poster featured singer-songwriter FKA twigs with a denim shirt draped across her left shoulder and body, but revealing the side of a buttock and breast. Copy read: "Calvins or nothing".
The second poster, which appeared alongside the above execution, used an image of model and media personality Kendall Jenner, who was shown from the side, wearing a pair of jeans, while her hands were folded across her bare chest. It used the same copy.
The third poster also used Jenner, this time lying on her back in underwear, pulling down her jeans past her hips. Copy, again reading "Calvins or nothing", was superimposed partly across her crotch.
The ASA received two complaints about the ads, which were seen in April 2023, on the basis they were overly sexualised. The complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive and irresponsible for objectifying women and inappropriate for using an untargeted medium.
Calvin Klein argued the ads were similar to those it had been running in the UK for many years, that it was renowned for being a pioneering brand focused on equity and equality and that none of the ads overly sexualised the models, who themselves had approved the ads for publication.
The advertiser said the images were not vulgar, that they empowered women and cited interviews given by FKA twigs and Jenner about their participation in the campaign, adding that men had appeared in similarly themed executions.
Regarding the nudity in the three posters, Calvin Klein argued that as they were promoting clothing including underwear, a degree of nudity was to be expected. But, the brand added, while some of the models' bodies were exposed, "sensitive body areas were fully covered".
In relation to the FKA twigs ad, the ASA noted that her breast and buttocks were exposed and that the image's composition meant that the viewer's focus was on her body rather than the clothing being advertised.
"The ad used nudity and centred on FKA twigs' physical features rather than the clothing, to the extent that it presented her as a stereotypical sexual object," the watchdog said. "We therefore concluded [the ad] was irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence."
Regarding the second ad, the ASA considered that the image of Jenner was "stylised, due to [her] pose, and that while the image did contain a degree of nudity, it did not focus on the model's body more generally in a manner that portrayed her as a sexual object".
For the third ad, the ASA noted Jenner was shown lying down wearing a pair of underwear with a pair of jeans pulled down past her hips and that the ad had a sexual element to it, while the slogan appearing over her crotch would draw attention to it.
However, it deemed the poster was "likely to be interpreted as an ad for lingerie, given the prominence of the underwear Jenner wore in the image" and because the "level of nudity was not beyond that which people would expect for a lingerie ad".
The ASA concluded that the Jenner ads were "unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offence on the basis of objectification".
However, the FKA twigs ad was ruled to have breached the Code.
The regulator also investigated the untargeted context of the posters and the likelihood they would be seen by both adults and children. While it considered that all the ads were sexualised to a degree, they were not placed within 100 metres of a school. However, the given the FKA twigs poster fell foul of the Code for being overtly sexual, it was "not suitable for display in an untargeted medium".
The watchdog ruled that the offending ad must not again appear in the form complained of and told Calvin Klein it must ensure that future ads do not "irresponsibly objectify women and [are] targeted appropriately".
(This article first appeared on
Campaign India

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