American Apparel’s audacious ads
“Too sexy”, “offensive and irresponsible”, “sexualising a child”, and “exploitive and voyeuristic” are just a few key words used by The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to describe American Apparel (AA) ads. The same ads AA’s own reps consider to have a “classic advertising aesthetic, which is internationally recognised for its artistic and social values.”
So which is it, inappropriate or institutional?
Although the ASA has been known in the past to throw down the hammer on ads with just the slightest hint of sex appeal, it appears that they have a valid case. Not just this time around, but also in 2009 when they first banned an AA ad that “could be seen to sexualize a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years.”
Still, however legitimate, it appears to make little significance or difference to AA, who creates and prints its own advertisements. And if AA isn’t used to such backlash as a result of their ads by now, it is safe to assume they expect it.
While some of ASA’s claims can be argued as bogus, such as “sexualizing a child,” considering the model in question was not under 18 years old but actually 23, other AA ads cannot be similarly defended. These include models wearing nothing but stockings with the butts cut out, breasts exposed and suggestive and provocative positions. More often than not, the models are wearing little clothing, if any at all, advertising, well, who can be sure? Ultimately, most AA ads causes one to ask the question, what exactly is being sold?
However, at the very least no one can say that AA ads are inconsistent. All of their ads have been taking on an overly sexy feel for years, even using pornographic actors and models at times. AA is proud of its sexy and even nude ads and says so on its website, with the tagline, “Take a look at the unique images that define us.” Some may hate and disagree with the ads, but others applaud them for their honesty and lack of airbrushing.
AA is a brand that is true to what they represent, which includes people’s flaws and imperfections. While the ASA’s efforts to penalize the brand can be understood and admired, AA isn’t backing down without a fight, or rather, isn’t backing down at all.
AA complies with each request to remove any offensive image. As it continues to play out though, AA will not be changing their aesthetics. Rather, the next series of ads are sure to be just as, if not more, racy and controversial.