Sniffing The Air, Outdoors


By the OMC’s Poster Boy

Today’s Guardian  reports that the ASA has upheld complaints against a Marks & Spencer outdoor ad for being “overtly sexual.”

M&S argued that they did not believe the ads were offensive or objectifying and that the ads simply featured the product – a lingerie range – that they were well known for selling. But the ad regulator disagreed saying “we considered that the image was of an overtly sexual nature and was therefore unsuitable for untargeted outdoor display, as it was likely to be seen by children.”

The ruling comes hot on the heels of a Downing Street meeting last month, where industry leaders – including the OMC’s Mike Baker – met the Prime Minister to discuss progress on reducing the “commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.”

In the wake of the government-commissioned Bailey Review, the OMC has been advising its membership on the use of raunchy imagery in outdoor ads and has also offered concerned advertisers the ability to request their work is not displayed within 100m of schools or other sensitive locations.

The ASA also issued new guidance for advertisers (here) which is designed to help make sure that out of home campaigns keep pace with the changes in public mood which the ASA and government believe they have sniffed.

Poster Boy is of the opinion that outdoor advertising almost always gets this stuff right – the industry knows its customers and recognises the responsibility that comes with displaying ads in a public space. But forthcoming research, commissioned by the OMC and carried out by advertising think-tank Credos – should throw more light on what consumers think the limits are when advertising outdoors.

As ever, watch this space.

Poster Boy

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