The U.K. Banned American Apparel’s Latest Creepy Ad Campaign

American Apparel has a long history of ads featuring women in various stages of undress that fall somewhere between mildly distasteful to outright objectifying. The sexually-charged ads have been used to sell shirts, shorts, bathing suits, and even socks. Behind the scenes, founder and former CEO Dov Charney weathered lawsuits, one after another, from current and former employees, often alleging sexual harassment. Though Charney was told to hit the bricks in June, it seems the company hasn’t shaken its reputation as a leader in ill-advised advertising campaigns.

Yesterday, the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the U.S.-based clothing company’s “schoolwear/school days” campaign, declaring that the images used in the campaign were “gratuitous and objectified women, and were therefore sexist and likely to cause serious and widespread offense.” They later added, “[W]e considered the images imitated voyeuristic ‘up-skirt’ shots which had been taken without the subject’s consent or knowledge which, in the context of an ad for a skirt marketed to young women, we considered had the potential to normalize a predatory sexual behavior.”

The company defended the ads, saying that one of the models was actually 30 years old, and that the models were, “happy, relaxed and confident in expression and pose, and were not portrayed in a manner which was vulnerable, negative or exploitative.” Even so, the ASA upheld its decision, asking the company to make sure “future advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society, and that it contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offense.”

This marks the sixth time American Apparel has had its ads banned by the ASA. While the company boasts that the models used in their ad campaigns are “non-airbrushed, everyday people, most of whom were not professional models,” one has to wonder whether the company believes that excuses the sexually-explicit and objectifying nature of their ads.

American Apparel has pushed the limit on what society will accept from their ads, a sort of Overton window of objectification. With a stock price that’s taken an 84 percent dive over the course of the past five years, it might be time for the company to reevaluate their approach and realize that there is, in fact, such a thing as bad press.

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