Nasty Gal is the latest brand to receive backlash over advertisements that feature models that many consumers considered to be overly thin. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which regulates advertising in the U.K., has banned commercials that show an “unhealthily underweight” woman in a swimsuit.
In the 30-second spot, a tall blonde is seen playing tennis in a yellow two-piece outfit, as well as swinging a golf club while decked out in a red crop top. By the end of the advertisement, she’s spraying sunscreen on herself while wearing a barely there bikini that reveals her rib cage.
The ASA has fielded at least 22 viewer complaints about the ad, according to the BBC. The watchdog agency justified the outrage, saying, “While the female model in the ads generally appeared to be in proportion, there were specific scenes which, because of her poses, drew attention to her slimness.”
Citing specific examples, the ASA pointed to one scene in which the model is lounging with arms outstretched, in a pose that “emphasized [her] slimness and length,” and another in which she is spraying a mist on her body. The ASA said this “placed focus on her chest where her rib cage was visible and appeared prominent.”
The group ultimately ruled to ban that commercial and three other abridged versions, concluding that “the ads were therefore irresponsible” and should “not be broadcast again in their current form.”
Nasty Gal defended its commercials, claiming the model weighs about 135 pounds and stands just over 5 feet 8 inches tall, according to the ASA ruling, which would indicate a healthy body mass index (BMI).
Though the company has complied with the ruling, a spokesperson for the clothing brand issued a statement that read, “At Nasty Gal we want to do all we can to use our voice to promote body positivity and diversity. We have worked with the model in this ad many times and she is represented by one of the world’s leading agencies, whose key priority is the health of their models. Her athletic build is in accordance with the NHS guidelines for a healthy adult woman.”
The incident follows a crackdown in recent years on advertisements accused of glorifying thin women. In 2016, the ASA banned a Gucci ad campaign featuring models at a dance party. One of them, cloaked in a graphic maxi dress, was also deemed “unhealthily thin” and had to be removed from the video. At the time, a representative for Gucci reportedly responded by calling it a “subjective issue.”
In 2015, the ASA banned a Yves Saint Laurent ad that it said showed an “unhealthily underweight” model lying on the floor with her legs exposed and ribs protruding. In France, models are required by law to provide a doctor’s note stating they’re at a healthy weight before they can be hired for campaigns.
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