Advertising watchdog leaves NSW sex store in an awkward situation

Advertising watchdog leaves NSW sex store in an awkward situation

A NSW sex shop has been slammed by the advertising watchdog for posters it deemed were “suggestive of sexual violence”.

The Advertising Standards Board upheld a complaint against five posters which were displayed in the front window of Vibes Adult Shop in Newcastle. The images depicted women in a variety of costumes – some bound and blindfolded – along with the text: “Fetish Fantasy Series”.

The shop is located on Hunter Street, a major road that runs through the Newcastle central business district. The street is also home to a pedestrian mall.

In the complaint received by the Advertising Standards Board, one person said the posters were inappropriately placed because they could be seen by families walking along the street.

“My issue is that the posters are obvious to the general public, including children,” the complainant said.

“They are situated in the front window of the adult shop on a busy road for all to see – you cannot miss them.”

The operator of the business did not defend the posters, instead providing the images to the Advertising Standards Board and asking the watchdog to let him know “if there is any problem”.


READ MORE: Serial offending lingerie store faces more ad standards complaints and sex toy troubles


In its determination, the advertising watchdog found two of the posters breached Section 2.3 of the Advertiser Code of Ethics, which states marketing should not “present or portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised”. This was because the posters had “strong connotations of sexual violence” and it appeared at least one woman was not a willing participant.

Three of the posters, including the two which the watchdog said breached Section 2.3 of the advertiser’s code, were also found to be in breach of Section 2.4 of the code, which states marketing should treat “sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience”.

Independent brand analyst Michel Hogan told SmartCompany businesses should think about the best way for them to connect with people who care about their products or services – particularly when it comes to products that are sexual in nature.

“Families walking along the main street in the central shopping area are probably not going to care about that,” Hogan says.

“And it’s a really good chance sticking it in their face is going to get you in trouble.”

Hogan says these days there are many different ways SMEs can market their products.

“It’s not like the only thing you can do is stick a poster up on your front window,” she says.

“Context is where you start. Anybody has to be conscious of where they are and who they’re interacting with, and businesses are no different.”

Images that are highly sexualised in nature come under tough scrutiny by the advertising watchdog and often receive many complaints, according to Hogan.

“The advice for small business is: think about your environment, think about your context and look for ways you can connect with people who care about what you care about without alienating the rest of the planet in the process. Everybody isn’t your customer.”

SmartCompany contacted Vibes Adult Shop for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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