The Advertising Standards Bureau has upheld a complaint against an ad by a Melbourne-based fashion retailer for its ‘flash sale’, which featured a cartoon character ‘flashing’ a woman.
The ad for a three day online flash sale by independent retailer Kinki Gerlinki featured the 1950s cartoon character ‘The Flash’ holding open his raincoat to flash a woman who has her hands covering her face, with text that read: “Flash Sale! 25% off all dresses! 3 days only! kinkigerlinki.com.au”.
Although the watchdog has recently upheld a series of complaints against ads featuring sexualised images that may have inadvertently been seen by children, the flasher ad was sent only to Kinki Gerlinki’s newsletter subscribers and advertised to its Facebook fans.
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Despite the limited audience, the board found the ad had breached regulations on community standards.
“The Board considered that the depiction and suggestion of condoning “flashing” is a depiction of material that is contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety,” said the board.
The complaint against the advertisement stated it was offensive because it trivialised the sexual offence of indecent exposure in order to promote the sale of women’s clothing.
“Furthermore it is highly inappropriate, offensive and insensitive to women who may have had an experience of this type of behaviour,” said the complainant.
The complainer also said the ad was extremely sexist, as indecent exposure is predominately perpetrated by men against women, “and such a depiction reinforces men’s dominance and abuse of power over women”.
Kinki Gerlinki responded to the complaint, saying its advertising often used references from vintage popular culture in fitting with the brand’s overall aesthetic.
“As a company that consists of 16 female staff members and only one male (our director) we have always taken pride in empowering our female clientele and would never have intentionally trivialised something as serious as sexual assault,” said the retailer.
“The ad was only up on our social media network for 3 days, it is now discontinued and it will not be used again. We wish to reiterate again that the ad was never intended as a shock tactic or to trivialise the very serious matter of sexual assault.”
Jess Olanda, who made the ad for Kinki Gerlinki, told SmartCompany she was deeply sorry that the ad upset anyone.
“The idea of trivialising sexual assault mortifies me. Even if the person complaining was in the minority, the fact that it touched one person negatively upsets me,” says Olanda.
She says when she made the ad, she was slightly concerned it may offend, but put her concerns down to her own over-sensitivity regarding women’s issues.
“I whipped it around the office getting the general consensus form the girls here. I like to think I’m quite sensitive and would never have trivialised sexual assault or anything in that realm… But because I think I’m so sensitive, I though ‘am I being hyper sensitive?’”
“I should have gone with my gut instinct,” she says.