Why The UK Banned This Ad (And Others Like It)

The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority just censored a new batch of ads.
Posted at 2:21 PM, Apr 19, 2017

The British Advertising Standards Authority can make it harder to advertise in the U.K.

The watchdog regulator is currently in the middle of implementing a more "proactive strategy." It censored a fresh batch of ads Wednesday, including a Rimmel London mascara commercial featuring Cara Delevingne.

The group says Rimmel used lash inserts and post-production work that made Delevingne's eyelashes look fuller. This was a problem since Rimmel was pushing the product's volumizing capabilities.

Now, the ASA bans a lot of ads. In 2015 alone, more than 4,500 were withdrawn or amended — most due to misleading info.

But a significant portion raised flags for being indecent and harmful, and it's less clear what the ASA considers ban-worthy on that front.

Last year, the agency banned a catalog ad by British fashion brand Jack Wills featuring models in underwear. No pictures involved nudity or see-through clothing, but the ASA ruled the content was too sexual for teenagers who might see it.

But the year before, the ASA chose not to act against a 2015 Tom Ford billboard featuring a naked Delevingne lying on her side.

Critics complained the ad was sexual and said because it was placed near churches and mosques, children could see it. But the ASA sided with Ford, saying the poster was "sexually suggestive," not sexually explicit. The group decided not to censor it.

While the ASA has removed or banned thousands of ads, some critics have questioned where the group draws the line for what is harmful.

For instance, last year, the group ruled against a Heinz commercial that showed people drumming on cans, arguing it could be harmful to children who try to copy it.

The commercial told viewers to tape the open edge of cans ("just to be safe"), but the ASA had a problem with a lack of safe-handling instructions.

The group has also been criticized because many of the ads complained about the most haven't been banned, while many that received just one official complaint have been.

Some have even speculated that the ASA's approach has had an unintended consequence: companies deliberately trying to create ads that will get banned in order to get free publicity on the web.