[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 16:46 GMT
Should advertisers clean up their act?
Lux advert with Sarah Jessica Parker
Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker was showing too much flesh on a bill board advert, according to Israeli Rabbis.

In the original advert for the soap Lux, Miss Parker was wearing a backless, sequined dress similar to outfits favoured by her television character, Carrie Bradshaw.

After complaints and threats to boycott Unilever products by Israel's Rabbis, the advert was changed so the actress was shown wearing a dress that covers her arms, back and thighs.

What do you think of adverts featuring bare flesh? Are you fed up with sex used as a marketing tool or do you like glamorous advertising? Should religious leaders get involved with matters like this?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

I don't really understand the fuss
Mari, Scotland
It's interesting to note that the actress involved in this fuss had a strict no-nudity clause in her contract for Sex and the City, and unlike the other girls on the show was never seen even topless. I don't really understand the fuss, although I wouldn't object to more unclad males being used to advertise products!
Mari, Scotland

What a half-hearted attempt at piety. If we are to believe that these religious leaders were acting for the greater moral good, why do they even condone the use of advertising? Surely all adverts do is incite greed, and we all know greed leads to corruption. I would love to hear someone voice the real basis for complaint: That the Rabbis don't want their precious male-dominated culture compromised by reminders that elsewhere in the world, women are successful, powerful and are not taught to be ashamed of their bodies.
Rich, Leicestershire

Sex is used everywhere these days, it's even permeated through to music videos that a few years back could easily have been sold as soft porn videos. The adage that sex sells is soooo yesterday and it's beyond saturation. Advertisers whose creativity seems to be restricted to the idea that the more extreme their campaigns, the more their clients will sell, will have to come up with new strategies. They could use that other characteristic that featured richly in Carrie Bradshaw's world, i.e. humour.
Ed Karten, London, England

I don't really object to the billboard per se, but more to the fact that on a daily basis I am inundated with certain images of women that don't bear any relation to my reality as a woman. I realize that this has been debated ad nauseum, but I think that if the advertisers want my money, they need to develop a more accurate and realistic image to sell their products. Otherwise, no matter how big the billboard or how much flesh is being revealed, I will walk right by and not give it a second glance.
Hudson, San Diego, USA

Are there not more important things to worry about these days? If you don't like it, don't look, but for goodness sake stop whining. We're all getting just a little bit fed up of political correctness invading everyday life.
Vik, UK

I do think the Rabbis chose the wrong advert to complain about
Kitty, Leicester, UK

Yes, I am fed up with sex being used to sell products - not because I have a hang-up about sex, but simply because I've become de-sensitized to that kind of advertising and it doesn't work for me (especially as they use a lot more scantily-clad females than males!) How about evening out the balance for us girls? But I do think the Rabbis chose the wrong advert to complain about - they should have chosen something more explicit to make their point.
Kitty, Leicester, UK

As much as I agree with most of the readers who oppose the Rabbis' decisions about boycotting Unilevers products, I should remind you all that the 'objectionable' posters were in the ultra religious areas of Israel, and the posters outside of this area were not touched. Israel is basically a religious country and in certain orthodox areas the advertisers should be more sensitive to the views of the population that live there.
Karen, Israel

Communities should set their own standards
Chris, US

Communities should set their own standards. In the US, you might find half-naked women (and men) on billboards in New York City, but in a town not 100 miles away you would be hard pressed to find any reference to sex on outdoor advertising. People that slam the West for loose morals should actually try visiting and find out for themselves how prejudiced and uninformed they are.
Chris, US

If you don't like the advert don't buy the product. Market forces will then find the balance of what is acceptable.
Dave K, London, UK

I believe everyone has the right to express their disapproval of something, although in this particular case I find it hard to see what is offensive about advertising a soap product with an image of a young woman wearing the sort of thing that young professional women often wear. If we banned everything that anyone found offensive it would be a pretty boring world.
Jonny, England

They are showing the product in it's proper context
Jim, Bath UK
I wish people would grow up and stop complaining just for the sake of complaining. This is an advertisement for soap and it is not using sex at all. It is a good deal better than the shower gel adverts on TV that show totally naked women in shower using the product and even then I think there is nothing wrong as they are showing the product in it's proper context.
Jim, Bath UK

Good grief, the sheer, naked prudishness on display in this discussion is far more offensive than sheer clothes and naked bodies. The Rabbis in Israel, like religious authorities the world over, try to impose their narrow restrictions on everyone else.
Peter Nelson, Chelmsford, Massachusetts, USA

Regardless of what year we live in, nobody is obliged to endure sexual images here and there, especially our children. That we live in 21st century is all the more reason to stop exploiting people as sexual objects. I guess we are not that civilised yet.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey

We bring up our children to respect a woman's body
Rabbi Nissim, London
We bring up our children to respect a woman's body and it works! Religious Jews have large families with strong values of modesty. Why should we be denied equal opportunities when walking down the street, I consider that spiritual oppression not censorship.
Rabbi Nissim, London

Sex sells, but it also corrupts minds. At least we should protect innocent children from a society with no moral's
S Khan, Bradford, UK

Unilever did the right thing. It was a business decision. Advertisements are supposed to encourage and rally the buying public, not infuriate and alienate them. This isn't a case of the government putting this campaign to an end (this is no "ban"), and a business must be held accountable to its customers if it is to succeed. This is about marketing, not morals.
Lyn, Williamsburg VA

Maybe Israelis - like us Brits - are just too uptight and guilt ridden about our natural desires
Ted O'Neill, Milan, Italy
It could be argued that Italians have a much more mature attitude to 'sexy' adverts than us Brits. I've lived in catholic Italy for two years, and posters showing much the type of nudity which in the UK would be classed as soft-core porn are frequently displayed in the metro and on the street corner. But nudity here seems to be considered as glamorous and normal and appreciated by women as well as men as a natural and honest part of life. Maybe Israelis - like us Brits - are just too uptight and guilt ridden about our natural desires.
Ted O'Neill, Milan, Italy

Ali from Morocco said SJP should cover up because "it is wrong to try to impose your moral and values on other people especially if they have different backgrounds or religions". I would say "exactly": in a Westernised country showing a bit of flesh is perfectly acceptable. Just because other cultures don't accept this, it doesn't mean we should follow suit. Double standards perhaps?
BR, London, UK

Advertising nowadays in the UK is far less openly sexist than it was in the 70s and 80s and there is a difference between glamorous adverts and sexy ones. I suppose it is up to advertising agencies to understand what a particular country will accept or reject and plan accordingly. I would not like to see religious bodies dictating to us the UK though.
Carole, Bristol, UK

The real issue is the depiction of a sexually independent women in the programme
Wayne, USA
I wish people would stick to the issue which is the billboard and stop ranting about sex. If you think that billboard is sexual you need to go to get out and maybe visit a beach near you! If she wasn't the star of a show called Sex in the City would anyone care? I think not. The real issue is the depiction of a sexually independent women in the programme and the fear that their women will see this and want to become independent as well. Fear of change always causes censorship
Wayne, USA

It is not as though she was stark naked.. The world has gone mad - when advertising a beauty product by showing a picture of a pretty girl in a short skirt is complained about.
Visha, Paris, France

As a Christian female I thank the Israeli Rabbis for understanding that the dignity of women is being undermined by the baseness of this generation's male CEOs and so-called artists of movie, TV, and radio. If sex sells, why aren't nude males washing cars, etc? It's because women aren't exploiting males.
V Wright, Montreal, Canada

My only objection is the lack of scantily-clad hunky blokes being displayed
Donna, Staffs, UK
I have no problem with sex and the like being used as a selling tool. My only objection is the lack of scantily-clad hunky blokes being displayed. Surely the time has come to even things up a bit. Seeing a nice six-pack on the billboard across the road would certainly get a smile out of me first thing in the morning.
Donna, Staffs, UK

Who are all these people with such a negative view of religions? I'm an atheist and a social liberal but that doesn't mean I can insult and belittle those who disagree with me or those with religious beliefs. It's not as if our society is so wonderful and we all behave so well that we wouldn't benefit from some moral advice.
Tim, London

What fantastic publicity all this has provided for Unilever and their product "Lux"!
Katherine, London, UK

I hardly consider this an extreme example of using sex as a marketing tool. Perhaps the religious leaders shouldn't strain their necks for too long when looking at these billboard adverts.
Andy Bird, Cheshire, UK

Don't let the PC mob turn sex into the new fox-hunting
Andy D, Oxford UK
It is sad to read all the tired old gender stereotypical responses here. It is a fact that most people have more than a passing interest in sex whether they choose to admit it or not. It is not something to be ashamed about (unless you are British of course) and is perfectly natural. There is so little left in this country that is "free" : for pity's sake don't let the PC mob turn sex into the new fox-hunting!
Andy D, Oxford UK

Maybe religious hardliners should consider other peoples liberal beliefs and keep their mouths firmly shut!

Anyone ever considered the possible link between rape, abduction and abuse of women and girls, and the constant bombardment by advertisers, pop stars, fashion magazines, TV etc to portray women as sex objects for the enjoyment of men. The advertisers should take responsibility for their actions and the effect they have on society. I notice all the comments stating that there is nothing wrong with this portrayal are all made by men.
Jeni Middleton, Leeds UK

People quickly become tolerant to the sexual climate that surrounds them
Brent, Philadelphia, PA, USA
My comment will probably raise the cry of "silly American prude," but I'll say it anyway. I feel its important to try to restrain overt exploitation of sex in advertising. People quickly become tolerant to the sexual climate that surrounds them, and once tolerant, you have to increase the level of stimulation to achieve the desired level of arousal. This leads to a feed-forward loop where, over time, the level stimulation required grows to a point where the excepted norms of a cultures sexuality start to become a little... grotesque?
Brent, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Good to see the Rabbis making a complaint about this advert - it's about time that someone stopped this filth.
Bruce, Belfast, UK

I disagree with Paul Parry. Unless I'm missing something, I hardly think a picture of a woman advertising soap is going to encourage teenage girls to conceive! The problem with the moral 'right' is that they think any ad showing as much as a bare kneecap will turn our kids into a nation of Marilyn Mansons.
Phil Anderson, Edinburgh, Scotland

Let's face it - she could have been wearing a lot less
Celeste Walker, Aberdeen, Scotland
SJP is known more as Carrie Bradshaw than as herself. Carrie's image is sexy but conservative. She shows no more flesh in her (generally) knee length dresses than a lot of girls out on the town on a Saturday night! And let's not forget, the advert is for a skin product. How else would Unilever advertise it but by showing some glowing, young looking skin? No one seems to have complained at other body care adverts that show women naked in baths or showers! Religious leaders have a right to their opinions, but at the end of the day its endorsement by a celebrity that sells products. Some consideration should be given to culture and religious beliefs when advertising in certain countries. But let's face it - she could have been wearing a lot less!
Celeste Walker, Aberdeen, Scotland

It's interesting to note that the majority of posters on here are men and the majority opinion seems to be that its okay to use sex to sell products. I wonder if their views would be different if they were bombarded with images of half naked men on bill boards, buses, train stations etc every day, instead of women?

To be fair, we've moved on so far so quickly that I don't even look twice at adverts like this.
Ed, London UK

Surely there's a common link between soap and skin
Alison, Edinburgh, UK
I am fed up when sex is used needlessly, for example to advertise a sofa or a car. But honestly, the Lux advert was about soap and surely there's a common link between soap and skin?
Alison, Edinburgh, UK

God gave us the parts for sex but he never gave us any clothes to cover them so what's the problem?
Les, Morpeth, England

Some of your comments surprise me. Because using the bodies of women in such a disrespectful manner is normal in the west, why should other people have the same morals? If other people who are religious want to live their way, it isn't the business of other people. It is wrong to try to impose your moral and values on other people especially if they have different backgrounds or religions.
Ali, Sidi Hajjaj, Morocco

Come on advertisers, pop stars etc, start being original
Alison, Athens, Greece
Sex seems to be used to sell anything and everything nowadays and as such is getting quite tedious. Come on advertisers, pop stars etc, start being original.
Alison, Athens, Greece

Hindus complained about some underwear at Harrods that was offensive to their faith. Muslims complained about an advert near a mosque that was offensive to their faith. That's ok, and politically acceptable. But if a Jewish or Christian person complains about something that offends them, it is censorship, imposing their views on others, and not PC. Why?
Chris, Colchester, UK

Those people in favour of this type of behaviour, I am sure wouldn't either mind to see their own mothers, wife's and daughters in such a state. So next time on your screensavers put one of your own naked family member up!
T. Hussain, England

I am tired of the religious right telling me what I can do and what I can't do
Vish, UK
I am tired of the religious right telling me what I can do and what I cant do, what I can watch and what I cant watch! If they don't want to live in the modern world, then fine lock yourself away, personally I have no problems with this type of advertising.
Vish, UK

Sex is a private matter. Displaying naked flesh in the advertisement has come from the concept of free sex. Free sex has broken many families and brought unhappiness to society.
Mahboob Hossain, Dhaka, Bangladesh

I have to disagree with Carl S. Sex might sell but do we really want to encourage it in a time where underage pregnancies are at his highest ever rate? I agree that there is a market for these type of adverts but certainly not on billboards where young children can see!
Paul Parry, London, England

I don't agree that these adverts should be banned or censored simply on the basis of religious morals or lack of thereof. What I do think is that the use of bare flesh here had nothing to do with the product and says to me that the product is poor quality if they need a celebrity wearing next to nothing to advertise it. Sunshine holidays, fine, but soap? The condom company show more restraint with their advertising than a soap brand does!
Darryl LeCount, Paderborn, Germany

Sex is debased by it's constant use to sell a commodity
Sandy, Ontario, Canada
Sex is debased by it's constant use to sell a commodity. It's an easy cop-out for advertisers. The best adverts in my humble opinion have always contained humour especially if an animal or animal character is used.
Sandy, Ontario, Canada

OK where does sex come into this ad? Is SJP flashing her knickers? Are her breasts exposed? No, she is wearing a short evening dress and laying on her stomach, flashing us that ever famous smile. That's it! People must realise that sex is not selling a product but her celebrity status is. Israel is a modern country and while it's based on the Jewish faith, most of its institutions are secular in nature. This is just another example of religious nuts (Islamic, Christian, Jewish or otherwise) trying to impose their view on everyone else. I'm all for religious freedom, but keep it to yourself if you please!
Jason Bird, London

Richard P, Bradford writes "Religious people of whatever faith should stop trying to impose their views on the rest of us who don't share their particular fantasy belief set." Well don't try to impose your views on me!
Martin P, UK

There are naked people galore, in the most religious place of the Catholic Church
Adam, Preston, Lancs
Sex sells? You're right. Let's have more of it! Anyone who thinks the human form should be kept to "decent" levels in adverts and posters should pop over the Vatican and have a look at The Sistine Chapel. There are naked people galore, in the most religious place of the Catholic Church.
Adam, Preston, Lancs

Personally I favour a very liberal view of "bare flesh" in advertising. I enjoy the European pragmatism toward the human form. With that said, the ultimate purpose of advertising is to create in the general public a positive "emotional" response to the advertised subject. This principle would dictate that if the majority of reactions to a specific advert are negative. It is in the best interest of the advertiser to respect the sensibilities of the general public that is being targeted. As for your question regarding "religious leaders...involved with matters like this", any time religious leaders get involved in social issues, I generally get an uneasy feeling about that. All too often their pious objections simply reflect a personal agenda and not their community as a whole.
Karl, Toronto, Canada

It's an age old marketing strategy and it offends some "moralists". They, by denying that sexuality of humans exist are just burying their heads in the sand.
Charles, Montreal, Canada

When are people going to drop their hang-ups
John H, Preston
Censorships is an outmoded concept now. When are people going to drop their hang-ups and stop trying to enforce their old fashioned views. I find it ridiculous that they're sticking a pretend top on Carrie. She's only showing a bit of arm! What next, cover her face?
John H, Preston

So, are we under the influence of anyone who has an axe to grind now as well as the government?
Kevin, UK

I feel that the Lux ad was not in the slightest bit controversial and really Rabbis should have better things to do than complain about this sort of issue. The fact remains that sex sells and that that position is here to stay whether Rabbis like it or not. The consumer always has the right to purchase a product and doesn't need to be told by religious leaders whether it's right or wrong to do so. Only in this way might advertising change.
Tim, Cologne, Germany

If you don't like it, don't buy it
Darren Riley, Staffs, UK
These companies are profit making organisations, shelling out huge sums in advertising fees, paying a huge amount of tax and should be allowed to advertise their product in the way they think will maximise sales. If you don't like it, don't buy it. If enough people don't like it, the company will have to change. Like every other 'committee' in this country, the censors bow down to the minority! Religious leaders do have the right to complain, like everyone else, but surely they have to accept not everyone shares their beliefs and that if they are in a minority, their complaint should be rejected.
Darren Riley, Staffs, UK

As long as sex sells advertisers will have the upper hand. The economy prevails on moral values these days.
Xavier, France

Religious leaders have as much right to comment and protest, just like anyone of us can do. Advertisers should be sensitive to the local population of where their adverts are. For example - would it be right for cigarette manufacturers to advertise in front of a hospice?
Idan, UK

No bare flesh? They didn't cover up her face! Anything that can be viewed on a beach should not be banned from advertising.
John, Lyne Meads, UK

Sex is one of the best marketing tools
Carl S, Gibraltar
Hey - sex sells! Sex is one of the best marketing tools, so long as it's not too 'extreme' then why not use it!
Carl S, Gibraltar

These pathetic people are too much. It's 2004, get a life!
Bob, UK

Who will pay any attention to advertising that is not exciting. Sex sells and religious leaders and other similar minded people should concentrate their energies at more deserving matters.
J Kabir, London England

I think it is okay to use sex as a marketing tool for advertising as long as it doesn't go too far. An example of going too far is the shampoo advert with the women in the shower. Sure, they do not reveal much flesh but the sheer loudness of the woman's kinky shouting makes it unbearable sometimes, especially if you are sitting next to your parents or someone you do not know when watching it.
Simon, Corsham, UK

Religious people of whatever faith should stop trying to impose their views on the rest of us who don't share their particular fantasy belief set.
Richard P, Bradford

Using sex, violence or insults to sell a product should be forbidden
Geoffrey Roberts, Colchester, UK
There are lots of stupid things in advertising. Most adverts are not family-friendly. Using sex, violence or insults to sell a product should be forbidden. How can we progress as a society if all we ever see on television / billboards etc appeals to the lowest common denominator?
Geoffrey Roberts, Colchester, UK

Rabbis clean up spicy soap advert
24 Nov 04 |  Middle East
Rabbis spark wig burning rumpus
17 May 04 |  Middle East


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific