From Naked Attraction to Lynx: the adverts banned for being too creepy

A Channel 4 campaign has fallen foul of non-consensually sexualising bus passengers. Then again – from phones to vape pens – the ad industry has form when it comes to sexualising everything

By all accounts, Channel 4’s ad campaign for Naked Attraction could have gone better. A bus billboard – with arrows pointing at seats on the upper deck, variously labelled “Loves Naked Attraction”, “Hates Naked Attraction” and “Loves Being Naked” – is now being removed from fleets across the country, after the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) received complaints that it was non-consensually sexualising passengers.

Using passengers as unwitting stooges in bus ads is nothing new – Air New Zealand ran a campaign where they were made to look like skiers and canoeists, while Nivea once made them appear as if they were at a spa – but you’ll notice that, crucially, none of them explicitly stated that any of the passengers enjoyed being naked.

But this is far from the only creepy ad campaign to be banned in recent years. Here are some of the worst offenders …

Spotify, 2018

In June 2018, Spotify started a YouTube campaign showing a group of youngsters being menaced by a creepy faceless doll that rose from the dead and appeared without warning whenever they listened to Havana by Camila Cabello. The video, shot to resemble a horror movie trailer, was banned by the ASA after it was found to unjustifiably cause distress in the young children who watched it because Spotify failed to target it properly.

Lynx, 2011

Lynx used to run into all sorts of trouble for its habit of implying that anyone who used its deodorant would instantly turn all women around them into sex slaves. In 2011, it had six separate adverts banned by the ASA. One, a poster, showed a woman in a bikini showering at the beach with the strapline “The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get”. Also banned was a video ad in which the model Lucy Pinder ate an ice lolly on a beach in a sexually suggestive way, because they ran on sites that were not age restricted.

Kazam, 2015

A woman walks down the stairs in her underwear, stroking the banister. She bites her lip, runs a finger down her cleavage and slowly pulls on a pair of tight jeans. She then proceeds to iron a shirt in slow motion, after being thrilled by its steam function. She dresses, then her phone rings. After all that, this was an advert for a phone, albeit an advert that was banned by the ASA for objectifying women.

VIP electronic cigarettes, 2014

The surprise is not that this advert caused offence because, of course, it did. It featured an attractive woman addressing the camera, saying: “I want you to get it out. I want to see it, feel it, hold it, put it in my mouth”, only to reveal that she was talking about a vape pen and not a penis. The ad was pulled from slots before 11pm after it attracted more than 1,000 complaints, concerned about the overt sexuality, the irresponsibility of glamorising smoking and the lack of a health warning. No, the surprise is that the brand thought that it could get away with this in the first place.

Philadelphia, 2019

Banned under the ASA’s then-new gender-stereotype ruling, this advert showed two new dads walking into a restaurant together, only to be so bedevilled by the stunning array of cream cheese on offer that they abandoned their children on a conveyor belt. “Let’s not tell Mum,” one whispers at the end. Silly dads. Whatever should we do with them, apart from imprison them for being genetically negligent guardians?


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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