Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
This week, yet another sexy American Apparel ad was banned by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). It's the third time this year, begging the question: who is picking the fight here, the ASA or American Apparel? According to American Apparel, it ain't them.
An anonymous source from AA's corporate team told us they think the ASA is looking for publicity by singling them out:
"We'd like to shoot down the idea that American Apparel is trying to make ads that get banned for publicity. It's the other way around," said the source. "The ASA grandstands on the AA name to get publicity and that's why they repeatedly come after the company. I think the fact that the 'ads' in this case weren't even ads but images on our website makes that pretty clear. How can this agency have any say over what a company displays on its site? We've been doing these ads for 10 years. Who are they to say what is and isn't appropriate?"
For the ASA's part, they claim to take issue with the gratuitously sexual nature of ads, especially for an admittedly unsexy article of clothing (in this case, a knit turtleneck sweater). Here's their explanation:
"We considered the image to be gratuitous, particularly in an ad for knitwear. We also considered the model's facial expression appeared blank, if not unsure, and were concerned that she appeared vulnerable. We considered the image was overtly sexual... For the reasons given, we considered the ads were likely to cause serious offense to visitors to American Apparel's website."
American Apparel remains unconvinced.
"From what we hear, the ASA is stepping stone for politicians and such in the UK. So it's a nice way to get press, going after things no one would really want to defend," our source said. "If you think about it, it's a pretty alarming precedent. A non-government agency decides not only what is or isn't ok, but they decide what is or isn't an ad. In this case, americanapparel.net is an ad, and their means of enforcing the rules are quarterly press releases. The media LOVES this stuff and the ASA knows it. We don't even run into this kind of trouble in China with our ads. It's nuts."
AA opened the conversation up over on their Facebook page, and to their credit, they seem to have left all the comments up, including the ones accusing them of soft-core porn and worse. Reactions are all over the board, but here's a sampling of the less profane comments:
Joshua James Kremke writes:
"I've never understood American apparels ads.. They make a lot of simple and elegant clothing in america... But the ads make it look like something else entirely. Elegant, completive pricing, and ethical should be platform enough."
Josh Crane counters:
"There's nothing offensive about this ad. If you're offended by a woman's thigh, you probably shouldn't be on the internet."
Another pro-ban comment courtesy of Samantha Collins:
"Yes, it is distasteful...and portrays women in a bad light...as sex objects. With sex trafficking being one of the biggest issues facing the EU and other neighboring countries...we need to realize that stuff like this doesn't help."
Erica Buffam takes a more aggressive stance:
"Shutup feminists. The lighting, the pose, the outfit, they are all very flattering and portray the beauty of a womens body."
And our personal favorite comes from Le Flambeur:
"She has great eyebrows."
What do you think? Are American Apparel ads dangerously sexualized, or is the ASA picking unnecessary battles? Speak your mind in the comments.
· This is How to Get an American Apparel Ad Banned [Racked]
· American Apparel Ads Are Too 'Gratuitously' Sexy for Britain Again [Racked]