ASA bans YSL ad for drug use simulation

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Yves saint laurent Advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned Yves Saint Laurent’s latest perfume advertisement, amid complaints that the woman’s actions in the video simulated drug use.

YSL has stated that it had not intended to use drug imagery in the latest TV ad for its Belle D’Opium fragrance; however 13 viewers complained that the advert was ‘irresponsible’ and ‘offensive’.

The advert features a woman dancing to a drum beat. She then points at her elbow and runs her finger along the inside of her forearm. She is then seen lying on the floor whilst the voice-over says ‘I am your addiction, I am Belle D’Opium. The new fragrance from Yves Saint Laurent’​.

‘Simulating the injection of opiates’

According to the ASA: “we were concerned that in the context of the ad, Belle running her finger down her inner arm could be seen to simulate the injection of opiates into the body.”

ASA was also concerned that following that scene, Belle was shown moving in a series of short, rapid scenes, before the ad concluded with her body seizing upwards while lying on the floor, an action it considered could be seen to simulate the effect of drugs on the body.

YSL responded by stating it took its social responsibility seriously, and had conducted consumer research to ensure the ad was not interpreted this way.

The fashion brand claims to have conducted third party research with 96 French women and a separate study on 410 UK adults, and found in both cases that the ad was deemed acceptable.

YSL said the average consumer was someone "reasonably well-informed and reasonably observant and circumspect"​ and they believed the average consumer would see the ad as an artistic endeavour to promote a sensual fragrance by YSL, and that it was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to most viewers.

Different versions alters context

There was also concern over different versions of the advert. A full length one minute video can be found on YSL’s website, however it is the 20 second cut version for TV that has attracted complaints, due to the context of the imagery being changed.

The ASA understood the full length ad had been carefully choreographed and styled to create Belle and her movements as a way of emphasising the powerful and intense qualities of the perfume, and to play on the idea the perfume had addictive qualities like a woman or opium.

However, it noted that the ad broadcast on TV was only 20 seconds and that it had been cut to feature predominantly the quickest and most dramatic music and scenes from the full ad.

ASA claims that in two of the key scenes, key images were omitted from the TV ad, and other key scenes were altered.

“We considered that the fast changing scenes and urgent music, created a less flowing, more frantic atmosphere in the ad, which might not enable viewers to interpret the ad as a stylised expression of femininity and bewitchment, as intended,”​ said the ASA report.

Clearcast, the advertising agency who passed the advert, said they approved the pre-production script as it was similar to most other fragrance adverts, and that it did not pick up on any drug use imagery. However, the ASA has judged the advert cannot be shown again in its current form.

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