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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 10:33 GMT
Should the Opium ad have been banned?
A controversial billboard advert showing a naked female model in a suggestive pose has been banned in the UK.
The picture (above), featuring Sophie Dahl for the perfume Opium, received 730 complaints saying it was degrading and offensive to women, making it one of the most complained about.
Christopher Graham, director general of the British Advertising Standards Authority, said the poster was sexually suggestive and unsuitable for a public place.
Is the picture offensive to women? Should it have been banned? Are the British too prudish or would it have been banned in your country?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Anyone, whether they think the ad is offensive or not, will admit that it is sexually suggestive. So, the question is whether or not sexually suggestive messages, in general, are good or bad. Personally, I think it is rather sick for women to rely on sexuality for their success in life. What a poor self image these ads teach women to have. And men are taught an equally sad and degenerate method of thought, valuing women who operate in that sexual mode. Overt public sexuality, whether emulated by one's self or appreciated in another, is a poor substitute for higher, more heroic, more selfless characteristics.
Have many people considered that much of our advertising is unnecessary, and extremely wasteful of: time, energy, and the earth's resources? I remember saying this in a school discussion in the early sixties. The teacher more or less told me I was stupid, I have not changed my view, as I have never seen or heard any logical reason to change my view. I do think much of our advertising has a bad effect upon our population and undermines the values of both parents and teachers. Lots of people seem to worry about freedom but we ought to remember that this freedom requires that we be responsible and should include advertisers.
Certainly not! The ad consists of an image of a very beautiful woman. It is no more suggestive than a reclining nude painted by well-respected (dead) artists
Perhaps the Advertising Standards Authority should be re-named: it should now be called the Advertising Double Standards Authority.
Brian Binney, UK
The human body has always been an art form. Ruben's women were all naked and voluptuous!
As for other cultures, in India the caves of Ajanta and Ellora in the south of the country have the most erotic images, again of beautiful, well-formed women.
Perfume is a sensual product. Why the fuss if the advert shows the same?
Has anyone smelt Opium. My grandmother wears it. Therefore it should target her genre. Put a naked old woman with a blue rinse on the next ad. False advertising is the real issue.
Hannah Sinclair, Gallifrey
Surprise, surprise most of the comments praising the ad are from men. Would you be so happy if this was your daughter, wife or sister? This ad is not about the human body, it's about some marketing exec (probably a man) trying to earn as much as possible for his client (probably another man). It saddens me, the lengths some people and organisations will go to so they increase sales and profits.
We British are still controlled by ridiculous Victorian morals which damage our ability to relate correctly to one another. This picture should be celebrated as it shows a well-fed woman as a role model not some skinny child-woman. In almost every other country of the world (at least the non-Muslim ones) such images are fully acceptable, yet we in Britain are forced to hold unhealthy Puritanical views by control of the self-styled "champions of the people" (sic), the popular press.
The only offensive thing I can see about this ad is that it makes me wish I had a body as good as Sophie's. If I had such a good body I'd be proud to show it off as well!
To me this add is excellent because it calls on the man who looks at it for very differing suggestion depending on whether it is posted vertically or horizontally.
To me that's very clever on the part of its designers who I must congratulate for their exceptional result. There is nothing offending into it.
Its seems relatively easy to find someone who will be offended
by almost anything. Over-concern for such "feelings" is destroying
whatever illusion we retain to free expression.
Here in America Bible-toting conservatives are in an unholy alliance with radical feminists to protect us from all hints of human sexuality, and they happily ban or censor anything hinting at nudity. I swear, the UK is becoming more like the US every day!
There used to be a watershed for watching programmes with unsuitable content whilst younger children were around. Nowadays, it is bad enough the watershed is abused on TV, but at least there is an off button. Here, you can be driving down the road with your young kids, and they are subjected to posters with sexual innuendoes everywhere. There is, unfortunately no off button in the street. What are responsible parents supposed to do these days - blindfold our kids, or discuss sex openly with our 5 and 8 year olds. It is a sad reflection of society that adults cannot take responsibility for keeping their over-sexed minds off the billboards and keep it in the bedroom where it belongs!
Sarah Jefferson, UK
A quick poll of women in my office did not reveal one who was offended by the poster. It seems sad that whilst many complain of the portrayal of size 8 'waifs' in the media, when YSL have the courage to use a more 'normally' shaped person, there is an outrage (well 700 outrages)
I have three children and do not have any problem with this image.
It never registered as sexual to me because the imagery is in the form of an over-used advertising language. Risqué areas are airbrushed/ covered. Most people exposed to it will be immune.
The current ads for H&M featuring Claudia Schiffer are to me more dangerous because the eye contact and the general provocative nature is intended to engage the viewer.
Therasa Jazowy (Aussie expat)
Thanks for showing the advert - the one near my house has white paint splattered all over it !
You don't know what prudish is until you have spent some time in the US. After that, the UK looks relaxed and civil. We Americans have a lot to teach the world about how to be repressed and unhappy.
What is more natural than a naked body?
The pose reminded me of the "star woman" cartoon in Monty Python's Meaning of Life.
I think perfume should be banned in public - it starts me sneezing.
Ricky Wright, UK
Back to corsets and 10 layers of underwear. The notion that the women who appear in this sort of ad are used is ridiculous. They make their money this way and a lot of it. Some women are uptight about being shown in this way, whereas most men are not. Men are being used to sell things with their bodies just as much as women these days.
Another advantage of this ad is that it shows a real woman and not a stick insect. Whose doing the most harm, a fully clothed stick insect persuading women to starve themselves or a normal sized woman naked?
As a woman, and a redhead at that, I am delighted by such a sensuous image of a beautiful woman. I am, however, dismayed that the few should dictate to the many. Why are we frightened of sexuality and our natural state? We should be celebrating and enjoying it!
Mark Carter, UK
It is about time ASA acted upon its own code of practice, well done ASA.
There is a big difference between art and pornography and if advertisers cannot tell the difference, then they should seek advice.
Are products so poor that advertisers have to use sexuality to promote them?
This advert is thoroughly dangerous and should be banned immediately. Whilst straining my neck to get a better look, I nearly drove into a crowd of men near the poster. They were, no doubt, discussing how morally wrong it was.
Send all remaining posters to me and I will destroy them for you, I promise...
This advert is not, as some supporters would claim, about Sophie Dahl expressing herself naturally. She was paid to do exactly what a (male) photographer directed her to. Then anything vaguely interesting or human about her body was airbrushed away so that she looked like cross between a corpse and someone on a visit to the gynaecologist... this is a truly unhealthy image of women, I have seen in years, and I am glad it was banned...
Darren Yates, England, UK
I live in Munich where, in the summer, office workers go to
the English Garden (a large park in the centre of Munich) to eat their
lunch together whilst sunbathing in the nude. British prudishness seems
very childish when viewed from here.
The real shame is that Sophie Dahl, who used to be a shapely and normal size 16 had to slim down to do the ad. This does not send the right message about shape and beauty to young women
Thomas Jordan, Quebec, Canada
It is a win-win situation for the marketers and advertisers. Even if the Advertising Standards Authority does not intervene, the very nature of the ad provokes discussion among its audience; if the Advertising Standards Agency does intervene, the media still discuss the controversial ad. The marketers' objective of stimulating the interest of the consuming public in the product or service they are promoting is achieved.
Yeah it's great but maybe it's time we saw some naked men in a few ads to kind of even out the balance a bit...
Pete Haines, England
Would there have been as many complaints if it had been a man?
If this picture had been hung in the Tate it would have been called art!
As for those people who said we should be protecting our children from this imagery, nonsense! The human form should be celebrated and children should not be indoctrinated into thinking that it is wrong to show ourselves in our true nature.
Can we ban The Sun next? Can we? Can we?
This type of advertisement must be banned from public places, the morality of the people in the UK is getting worse.
It is another example of women's bodies used to sell commodities, and thus becoming commodities themselves. Ads of this sort continue to diminish respect for women, reducing us to sexual objects to be used and abused as men wish. There is no precedent for men being abused by women inflamed by images of submissive naked men's bodies - so how easy it is for them to call women who decry these kinds of images of women in the media as prudish. These men have nothing to be scared of - we do.
So, presumably, if 800 or so people complain that the picture has been taken down, they'll put it back again? What's the number to ring?
Speaking as a Christian, I am VERY grateful to be living in a country that still has some standards, which it is not ashamed to hold to. Marketing executives have tried to erode them in recent years, in order to get our attention. This has nothing to do with changing times, only to do with market share.
The issue is not whether the ad is decent it's whether it should be shown in public places - such as on billboards - where people have no choice in what they are exposed to. The ad itself is no worse than much of what's published in magazines aimed at the readers of an adult age. That's where this ad should be - in a place appropriate to its audience. It's difficult not to be cynical about the ad agency's decision to place the ad on billboards - it seems as if they've tried to maximise the impact of the campaign by deliberately stirring up public opinion. And since they've got away with it, what's to stop other advertisers using the same tactics? If the only punishment is removal of an ad that's already done its job, that isn't punishment at all. Would a fine by more appropriate? Or should billboard ads be more rigorously screened before they're pasted up?
Matt Hunt, London
The ad has already done its job by creating a much greater public awareness of the Opium brand. By creating such a fuss, the public has played into the hands of the advertising industry. I do not find this ad offensive, but can understand why some people do.
This sort of image would not have been seen outside a top shelf magazine 25 or 30 years ago. One wonders what sort of images will be considered acceptable on billboards 15-20 years from now.
Joanne Smith, UK
What about the animal testing that may or may not surround this new fragrance? I personally find most perfume adverts offensive for this reason. As for pictures of naked ladies in suggestive poses, I rather like it.
The Opium advert ran for some time in France, particularly on the billboards in Paris, and was considered relatively tame compared to some that are quite legitimately posted. No comments, no complaints and no car accidents (at least none caused by the advert). The only comments from the ladies in my office were ones of approval, concerning the use of a shapely woman rather than a stick insect. Whilst I accept that there are cultural differences between us and the French, aren't we being just a little silly over this?
Far from being prudish, I think there is a place for everything. An appropriate place for this explicit advert would be in magazines for YSL's intended audience and not on huge billboards around the country. If adverts like this are continually allowed to be placed in the mainstream public domain where is the line ever going to be drawn on what's appropriate and what is not?
With the exception of the Americans,
the British are the most up-tight
people in the West. Just come over
to Amsterdam for a day and have
your eyes opened.
I think the poster is GREAT!! I nearly crashed my car, but it's still brightened up my day!
I think she is a lovely girl and she should express herself whatever way she wants
Sylvie Marmorat, UK
Although the ASA have been "moving with the times" in the respect that they are less reactionary to most adverts now, I think that it was the right decision to ban this ad. It was far too explicit for an outdoor site and I am happy enough not to be confronted by a giant naked woman on the way to work when all I want is my cup of coffee!
Amazing, finally an advertisement with a woman who is undoubtedly very sexy and attractive AND is NOT as thin as a stick insect (like so many women in adverts today), and the picture gets banned. I was rather hoping it would set a trend that might discourage the practice of young women starving and forcing themselves to be sick in order to look thin, just like the girls in most advertisements.
I guess that would be too sensible...
It seems that the UK public is very sheltered from this type of material by stringent media censorship, so it is no wonder that they are unable to accept this nude image larger than life on a public billboard. I don't think it would have caused any more than a minor stir in Australia.
I actually thought it was a poster of a drug taker in pain!! Shows how much attention I pay to adverts!
She looks good but it is a bit too much for billboard posters - keep it for Cosmo!
I don't think the poster should have been banned; the ASA seems to think that nudity is something distasteful. They ought to realise that sex does exist and people enjoy it!
The fact that the advert was ever released reflects the present low standard of morality. If that sort of thing is allowed to carry on then advertisements will simply degenerate as the limits of acceptability are pushed further back. There will probably come a time when material you find on the top shelf in a newsagent will be blazoned on hoardings. We are evidently well on the road towards that so does anyone want to put the brakes on? Thankfully they do....at present.
Jon Cahalane, London, UK
Amazing how British people can be so prudish yet incredibly go beyond all decency when on holiday abroad. What about TV programmes like "Greece (or) Ibiza Uncovered"?
It seems that Victorian prudery is alive and well and living in the UK (or is it Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells?). The photo of Sophie Dahl is more artistic than sexual and it is high time that the views of the little old ladies (and men) who choke on their tea at the sight of a nipple (shock horror!) be ignored and consigned to the sepia tinged past where they belong.
I do agree that the advert is lacking in taste and is an affront to women, displaying them as sex objects
I would like to ask any of your correspondents who are in favour of this ad whether they have children, and if so would they like their children to see this on public display? If they do not have children they may not understand the responsibilities of parenting. I do not want my children to see portrayals of sexual behaviour but there is no nine o'clock watershed for a poster in the high street.
It's a shame how we British always manage to direct our outrage at the most insignificant things. I'm sure the rest of Europe will not have batted an eyelid. Instead of getting upset at a vaguely erotic picture of a naked woman in an advert we should be outraged by the cynical and manipulative methods certain advertisers use to induce "pester power" in children.
I think there are 730 people out there who have obviously got nothing better to do than make a complaint about a picture of a naked woman (did the same people make complaints about the naked woman that appeared in the M&S ads as well?). The picture is fine and should be left up, but these people are obviously offended by the sight of a beautiful woman. Get a life!
Paul Williams, UK
A risque advert or a marketing manager's dream? Banning the advert will only increase the publicity of the product. But why ban it? Can anyone really consider this advert to be offensive?
Another reminder of one of the many small reasons I enjoy living outside of the UK. What prudes you are!
A woman lying in the street in such a pose would be arrested for indecent exposure. So why allow an advert to show a picture of this instead?
What a bunch of sad people we have become! It is a beautiful picture of a woman in tune with her body. The only reservation I have is that from a road safety point of view it might cause a few accidents. Incidentally I am a 57 year old grandmother.
The advert reflects the completely immoral society we live in today. Nearly everything these days is advertised with sex. What would you say to a five year old who saw that advert? It was right to ban it.
I don't think it is the kind of ad that looks right on a billboard by the roadside. It is sexually suggestive and would be difficult to explain to children. Not to mention the distraction it could cause to drivers!
Woyteck Morajko, USA
I am very glad to hear the Opium add has been banned. This country has a horrible record for violence against women as a recent report confirmed. This kind of advert is not suitable for display in public places, bus stops and bill boards, as it is the kind of thing that encourages some men to harass women. I have been subjected to harassment and aggression because I walked past a Wonderbra add at the wrong time. The overall attitude of men to women in this country is still very poor and this kind of thing sadly encourages some of them to bully females.
What about the Women's Institute, they have produced a calendar with lots of nudity but everyone thinks it is nice and tasteful. I think these images are more of what you make of them.
The pose and content of this advert is belongs within the covers of a 'top shelf' magazine not on large billboards that are highly visible and can vividly 'imprint' images in children's minds.
In Spain this picture hasn't been banned. I don't know why it should.
It is an advertisement for women.
It pictures a beautiful woman enjoying her body. Oops! Perhaps I forgot women shouldn't enjoy their sexuality. Sorry.
Michael Kenning, England
Come on...when will the British come out of the closet about sex, nudity and their insecurity that goes with it. It is a body without any clothes on. We all have one and they are all different. Do you feel bad about being a woman? I might feel jealous of her body, but that is as far as it goes. Go wild; let it all hang out.
Nobody would allow rape to be portrayed on a billboard - thus we all accept there should be "some" standards. A public debate about common morals and values is long overdue ... before the UK slides any further into the relativistic abyss.
I don't think the picture is degrading or offensive to women... that's not the point though. I think it should be removed, as it is sexually explicit and therefore not suitable for public spaces. I don't have a problem with adverts such as this appearing in publications intended for adults, e.g. Cosmopolitan magazine, or Maxim etc.
Neil Towns, UK
18 Dec 00 | UK
Naked Sophie Dahl ad banned
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