Lynx causes a stink: Unilever ads banned for degrading women

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Advertising

Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever has been hauled in front of advertising watchdogs in the UK after complaints that separate outdoor and internet campaigns for its Lynx brand objectified women.

An outdoor advertisement for Lynx Excite featured a woman at a beach under a shower holding up her bikini top which had been untied, alongside the text ‘the cleaner you are the dirtier you get’.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK received 113 complaints for the poster ad stating the advert appeared to objectify women, promote promiscuity and was exposed to young children.

It’s what we expect?

Unilever protested its innocence, defending the ad by explaining it was not ‘overtly sexual’ or ‘indecent’. It also stated that Lynx advertising has always been ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and the "overall feel of the campaign, the poster and Lynx advertising over the years [is] cartoonish"​.

ASA judged the outdoor ad complaints under its new tougher guidelines concerning sexualisation, although the guidelines were introduced after the campaign was booked.

It banned the ad as it implied using Lynx would lead to more uninhibited sexual behaviour and "in so doing would be seen to objectify women",​ as well as ruling it irresponsible because "the suggestive nature of the image and the strong innuendo were not acceptable for public display where they might be seen by children".

It rejected claims that the advert promotes promiscuity but deemed the previous two complaints worthy of removal of the ad, agreeing that it could cause widespread offence.

Going too far?

Unilever took more heat for its separate digital campaign for Lynx Dry Full Control, which featured UK model Lucy Pinder in five videos partaking in numerous activities whilst showcasing her cleavage, alongside the tagline ‘what will she do to make you lose control?’

At the end of one of the videos, which appeared on Hotmail, Yahoo, Spotify, Rotten Tomatoes and Anorak, an image of the model was accompanied by a box asking viewers to fill in the blank for a statement reading ‘Lucy Pinder [blank]ing makes me prematurely perspire’.

The ads for the men’s grooming brand received 15 complaints that it was degrading to women and that the advert could also find itself ‘irresponsibly’ in front of children.

Unilever refuted this claim stating that Yahoo, Hotmail and Spotify all kept the advert away from those under 16 due to age verification, although ASA upheld the claim in part, due to the Anorak and Rotten Tomatoes sites not protecting through age verification, which meant under 16s may have been exposed to the images.

Difference of opinion

Unilever also defended the campaign by claiming the model was not being degraded because she was portrayed as a woman who was ‘confident and in control’.

It claimed the ads are designed for males between the ages of 17 and 27, and were a “playful, sexy, tongue-in-cheek take on the 'mating game' narrative.”

However, ASA did not see it that way ruling that because activities carried out by the model were done in a sexually provocative way with a particular focus on her cleavage, coupled with the impact of the text, the ads were likely to be seen as degrading to women and were therefore likely to cause offence.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

Related news

Show more

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars