Unilever gets dressing down for smutty Lynx ads, but ASA needs to widen its aim

It’s official: we, or rather our children, have been seeing far too much of Lucy Pinder’s ample cleavage, and it’s got to stop.

That is the verdict of ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority on the latest Lynx online and poster ads, which show the glamour model in assorted demi-nues poses.

Whether in reality La Pinder, who routinely appears topless in a variety of newspapers and magazines freely available to all, is corrupting the nation’s youth by testing the power of Lynx’s anti-perspirant control remains highly debatable. But the fact is Unilever, owner of the Lynx brand and generally deemed a responsible advertiser, has clumsily transgressed one of the great contemporary pieties: the need to protect our little ones from the merest taint of precocious sexualisation.

This was a slow-motion accident waiting to happen. Lynx is inherently laddish. It self-consciously appeals to the sort of young male (17-27 years old) who avidly devours exactly the kind of mag in which Pinder tends to appear topless. Yet the difficulty for Unilever is not primarily the positioning of the brand – although its treatment of women as blatant sex objects does sit increasingly oddly with the infinitely more respectful approach adopted by Dove, also a Unilever brand. It is in the sloppiness of the media placement: a case of creative strategy being highjacked by the media buying/planning agency.

As a result, Unilever has become the first high-profile casualty of the David Cameron-endorsed Bailey Report, which strongly recommended protecting young children from just this kind of commercial “smut”. One key proposal was that there should be a clampdown on erotically-suggestive posters. And yet Unilever and its agencies wilfully went ahead with the idea. Despite the fact that, after pre-vetting, the ASA’s CAP Copy Advice unit had already cautioned the ad was likely to be banned.

Less obviously culpable, perhaps, is the placement of the online ads. That they have also been banned suggests you simply can’t be too careful these days when posting ads in such apparently child interest-free zones as Yahoo and Rotten Tomatoes.

I won’t say the ASA zealously hit the wrong target in singling out Lynx, because it didn’t. But let’s face it, when it comes to taste, decency and the issue of inappropriate commercial intrusion, the regulator needs to broaden its aim.

Take a look at this Littlewoods Christmas commercial (produced in-house) which is creating quite a furore on Facebook:

To quote from Marketing Magazine, which ran the story:

One [Facebook] commentator said: “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it is too irresponsible to allow. It promotes copious spending, which is what started this damn credit crisis – people spending money that they haven’t got because they felt the need to compete with the Smiths, or buy love.”

Another commentator said: “What a great example to kids to know that what makes a mother a good one is how much over-expensive bling she buys them at Christmas.”

Quite. Corrupting our kids isn’t simply a matter of prematurely exposing them to seamy sex.

About these ads

2 Responses to Unilever gets dressing down for smutty Lynx ads, but ASA needs to widen its aim

  1. D.Isgusted says:

    Could not agree more with the Lynx adverts being banned, I think they should go further and ban the entire sexist fallacy created by Lynx. They are clearly too provocative to let our children watch and too abhorrent to let anyone watch quite frankly. I am incredibly offended by these ads as are many people I have spoken to, both men and women. I also totally agree with the selfish and materialistic objectives performed by unwitting children in the Littlewoods ad. What kind of future are we likely to see in a decade or so when we pride ourselves on our sexism and materialistic greed??

  2. Hugh says:

    I am showing my age here Stuart but

    The tune of the Littlewoods ad ” My Mother” was originally “My brother” sung by Terry Scott (comedian) and co written with Mitch Murray. I seem to remember it was endlessly played as a favourite on Radio 2 (possibly even the Light Programme !) on which requests were aired for children in the last century!

    Mind you – maybe our current Health and Safety Inspectorate, the animal cruelty lobby and Age concern would object to the old lyrics and campaign for the original song to be banned.

    As with the ASA guidelines these lyrics are hardly “tasteful, decent etc…”

    “Who put salt in the sugar bowl?

    Who put fireworks in the coal?

    Who put a real live toad-in-the-‘ole? My brother

    Who put jam in mother’s shoe?

    Who made real caterpillar stew?

    Who locked Grandad in the loo?… My brother…..”

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