Selfridges ad featuring ‘unhealthily thin’ model not ‘irresponsible’– advertising watchdog

Selfridges ad featuring ‘unhealthily thin’ model not ‘irresponsible’– advertising watchdog
A Selfridges department store promotion, slammed by critics for featuring what they call an “unhealthily thin” model, is not “socially irresponsible” according to the advertising standards watchdog.

The image, featuring a woman in a side pose wearing a long blue dress, was sent in a promotional email to customers in January.

One of the readers, however, complained the model looked “unhealthily thin,” and voiced concern over whether the ad is “socially irresponsible.”

While conceding that the model is thin, Selfridges claimed that people’s perception of what constitutes thin varies, so while the model may appear extremely thin for some, it may well not be the case for others.

The department store added that her pose was not meant to accentuate her thinness, and that anyone wearing such a loose design would have their body image distorted.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the brunette model looks in proportion and that she does not appear to be “significantly underweight.”

It added that it is her pose and clothes that highlight her slimness.

“We considered most people, including young children and women, would interpret the ad as focusing on the design and fit of the dress, rather than on desirable body image,” the ASA said.

“We considered that, although the model was slim, she did not appear to be unhealthily thin or significantly underweight and therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, Selfridges was keen to stress that the image is not an ad, but an email that had been sent to “selected” customers at the beginning of the year.

Yet some questioned stereotypes of beauty, raising concern over the appropriateness of ads featuring stick-thin models as failing to represent the majority of the population.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of the National Council of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA), a founding partner of the Be Real Campaign, warned that the misrepresentation could trigger people to try and lose a serious amount of weight too quickly.

“We've seen positive advances in the fashion industry over the last few years, including from Selfridges themselves, which shows that there is a shift towards more responsible advertising and portraying of diversity,” she said.

“However, the recent advert is another example where a slim body is still favored over others, despite the fact that it doesn't reflect the majority of customers,” Hatton was reported saying on the BBC.

“Idealizing a body type that's unobtainable for most people can lead to unhealthy methods of weight loss.”

In order to tackle the idea of thinness as ideal beauty, Hatton’s group has committed to make do that the fashion industry becomes more representative of the whole population.

“This is why we launched the Be Real Body Image pledge last year.

“Through the pledge we want retailers, as well as modelling agencies and other industries to promote body types that reflect the population as it is, with all its shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, abilities and more.”