The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad featuring a rail-thin model in a Gucci dress that ran on the Times of London’s Web site in mid-December.
“The ad, which begins with models dancing in a villa in Florence, was flagged” by the agency after it “received a complaint for using a model that was ‘unhealthily thin and gaunt,’” reports Molly Crane-Newman for the New York Daily News, which features a still picture of the particularly offending image. The Daily Mail has a link to the entire video featuring the model.
“We considered that her torso and arms were quite slender and appeared to be out of proportion with her head and lower body. Further, her pose elongated her torso and accentuated her waist so that it appeared to be very small. We also considered that her somber facial expression and dark make up, particularly around her eyes, made her face look gaunt,” the ASA concludes.
Although Guccio Gucci, the parent company of the brand, has removed the images, it defended the ad, saying it “was aimed at an ‘older, sophisticated’ audience and that the Times Web site was used as it provided an ‘adult and mature’ readership,” Mark Sweney reports for the Guardian.
“The ruling comes amid a longstanding debate on both sides of the Atlantic about the perils of overly thin models projecting an unhealthy body image for women …,” points out Dan Bilefsky for the New York Times. “Last year, the French Parliament approved measures prohibiting modeling agencies from hiring dangerously thin models and requiring altered photographs of models to be clearly labeled.”
"In the past, the ASA has banned ads from Miu Miu (a 2011 image featuring Hailee Steinfeld sitting on train tracks was deemed ‘irresponsible’), Marc Jacobs (Dakota Fanning's 2011 ‘Oh Lola’ campaign was deemed 'sexually provocative' for having the bottle between her legs), and Saint Laurent (the spring 2015 campaign model was ‘too thin’)," reports Tyler McCall for Fashionista.
“Anyone can make a complaint through the ASA's website, and clearly the organization takes each one seriously, as this particular Gucci campaign received one sole complaint according the report,” McCall adds.
“It’s not Gucci's first go at producing a controversial ad,” point out Sarah Raphael and Alexandra Ilyashov for Refinery 29. “In 2003, under then-creative director Tom Ford, the brand released a campaign featuring supermodel Carmen Kass with a Gucci G shaved into her pubic hair. The image was banned almost instantly, but became iconic — it was perceived as rebellious and sexy, which only added to the brand’s allure.” But, they suggest, featuring overly thin models “is not a coolness-inducing reason to be banned.”
In other weight-related news from across the pond, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health is suggesting that food packages containing the likes of chocolate, soda and chips carry small labels with stick figures — “activity icons” — showing how much exercise a person would have to do in order to burn off the calories he or she is thinking about introducing to their metabolic system.
“If you knew you'd have to run for 15 minutes [or bike for 23 or swim for 13] to burn off the 138 calories in a sugary soda, would you still drink it?” asks the caption under a picture of a mock “Fizzy” soft drink with “real fruit” that illustrates Maggie Fox, Erika Edwards and Jane Derenowski’s story for NBC News Today.
“We think a clearer way of making people more mindful of the calories they are consuming is for a food or drink product to also show on the front of the packet a small icon which would visually display just how much activity you would need to do to burn off the calories it contains,” writes the RSPH’s Shirley Cramer in a commentary on BBC.com explaining the proposal she made in the British Medical Journal.
Reactions from academia vary.
“Susan Roberts, a senior scientist at Tufts University, calls it a “ridiculous idea,” telling NBC “I don't think food labels will fundamentally solve our problem.” But Cornell’s David Just thinks it’s worth trying, pointing out that current labels with “things like number of calories and grams of fat” are difficult to “understand and make use of.”