An advertisement drawing similarities between a cow’s udders and women’s breasts has been banned by the Advertising Standards Board, with one ad expert labelling it “embarrassingly old-fashioned”.
The promotion, released by Perth-based cosmetics business Assure Cosmetic Centre, depicts an image of a cow’s udder accompanied by the tagline “Look familiar?”
Underneath the image is the text “Ladies, it’s time to reclaim your breasts”, intending to promote breast augmentations or breast lifts to women post-childbirth.
“The message delivered by the advertisement is crude and unambiguous: women, unless you augment your breasts, you are cows,” wrote one complainant.
“The suggestion that women can ‘reclaim’ their breasts by having them surgically augmented is absurd, as it falsely implies that an unaugmented breast is ‘lost’.
“The advertisement perpetuates the destructive and misogynistic belief that a woman’s self-worth is measured by the shape of her breasts, and that female breasts are foremost (if not exclusively) objects of sexual desire.”
Lauren Rosewarne, advertising expert and academic at the University of Melbourne, told SmartCompany this morning any advertisement connecting women’s breasts to udders in 2017 is “simply asking for trouble”.
“Gender remains a hot button issue in our culture. We’re not only in a time of heightened awareness of sexism but we’ve become a culture where advertising that offends on these grounds will be quickly called out,” she says.
“Such usage frames a company as out-of-touch, anachronistic, backwards and embarrassingly old-fashioned.”
Advertiser claims ad is “light hearted”
The advertiser defended the imagery on the basis the udder imagery was “light hearted” and the ad was intended to empower Australian mums by giving them the opportunity to “reclaim” their breasts.
Saying the complaint had “misinterpreted” the ad, the advertiser refuted the allegation it suggested women are “cows” unless they augment their breasts.
“It is unreasonable to claim that we are suggesting to the very market we are trying to attract that they are somehow analogous to a cow. We are simply using a light hearted image to make an observation many women quite openly make amongst themselves,” the advertiser wrote.
“The proposition that any plastic or cosmetic surgeon would seriously suggest to their own patients that they are cows unless they have a breast procedure is not reasonable.”
The advertiser also contested the claims made that the advertisement told women unaugmented breasts are “lost”, saying the intention was to let women know they could augment their breasts “if they wish to remediate for some of the effects of child-birth and breastfeeding”.
The advertiser also denied the complainant’s statement that the campaign was “destructive and misogynistic”, noting the ad did not “in any way, say that a woman’s breasts are objects of sexual desire”.
“[The ad] does not mention or imply anything about self-worth; confidence; happiness; or any other emotional outcome,” the advertiser wrote.
Ad banned for “overall negative impression”
However, on the basis that the comparison to a cow was “relevant only to women” as a “negative depiction”, the advertising standards board (ASB) board upheld the complaint.
Drawing on previously upheld cases, in which the board had found the usage of the word “cow” to be negative and degrading to women, the ASB decided the advertisement did contravene section 2.1 of the AANA Code of Ethics, relating to discrimination or vilification of gender.
“Although the advertisement is not suggesting that all women are unhappy with their breasts, the image of the cow’s udders in connection with the reference to ‘reclaiming your breasts’ creates an overall impression that is negative and draws a negative relationship between women and cows,” it said.
“Overall the Board considered that the advertisement did portray material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of gender.”
Noting the comparison of a women’s breast and a cow’s udder were “not a complimentary comparison”, director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney believes advertisers should endeavour to vet ads against members of the target market before putting them to print.
“Brands do face continual judgement for their actions in the public sphere. Particular ‘soft spots’ like the targeting of women are potentially contentious and should be considered carefully due to social and marketing history,” Reaney told SmartCompany.
“A better brand message would be identifying a portrayal that women aspire to positively, methodology that is likely to have women take note and align with the campaign.”
SmartCompany contacted Assure Cosmetic Centre but did not receive a response prior to publication.