Boohoo forced to drop ‘sexually suggestive’ images by watchdog

A promotion by the fast-fashion retailer Boohoo that used “sexually suggestive” images of a model in an oversized T-shirt and thong-style bikini bottoms has been banned by the UK advertising watchdog for objectifying and sexualising women.

The online retailer used several images of the model, including a shot taken from the rear of her kneeling and another of her sitting with her legs apart, which prompted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the promotion was offensive, harmful and irresponsible.

Boohoo, which has previously been censured by the ASA for an email promotion headed “Send nudes”, said that the way it presented garments “reflected the diversity of women in society and their customer base”.

The watchdog said that while the advert was presented as part of the swimwear category, the actual advertised product was the T-shirt and the listing on the website appeared as a result of searches for T-shirts or tops.

The ASA said that in each case the staging of the shots was “sexually suggestive”, with the model shown with the T-shirt folded in ways to expose her body, instead of focusing on the product.

The model’s partial nudity was not relevant to the product, said the ASA.
The model’s partial nudity was not relevant to the product, said the ASA.

“We noted that neither the partial nudity nor the bikini bottoms were relevant to the product and that the images did not show the product as it would usually be worn,” the ASA said in its ruling. “For those reasons, we concluded that the ad objectified and sexualised women. It was therefore irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence.”

Boohoo said that it understood the importance of the issues raised by the ASA and removed the images from its website before the publication of the ruling.

“We told Boohoo to ensure that future ads were prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society,” the ASA said.

In 2019, the ASA banned a Boohoo email promotion that used the phrase “Send nudes” in a message to customers marketing a range of clothes coloured to resemble skin.

It pictured a female model wearing a short, white dress and beige jacket with the words “Send nudes. Set the tone with new season hues” written across the image.

The ASA said the phrase “send nudes” was likely to be understood as referring to requests for sexual photos and said it was irresponsible to make light of a “potentially harmful social trend”.