The AANA introduced an amendment to Section 2.2 of the Code of Ethics which came into effect on 1 March 2018.

These stricter provisions state that advertising or marketing communications shall not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.

The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Portraying women as commodities or objects to possess is seen to be exploitative.
  • Focussing on a body part that bears no relevance to the product or service provided is exploitative.
  • It is reasonable for advertisers to focus on the parts of women associated with the product they are promoting, and it is not exploitative or degrading to do so.

The cases below were determined prior to 1 March 2018.

Issues highlighted in cases relating to Section 2.2 of the Code that have been considered by the Ad Standards Community Panel include:

Depiction of children

The AANA Code of Ethics Practice Note provides the following additional guidelines for advertisers regarding exploitative and degrading content concerning children.

In advertisements where images of children are used, sexual appeal is not acceptable and will always be regarded as exploitative and degrading.

Advertisers are generally responsible when it comes to the depiction of children in advertisements and no advertisements have been found to breach this provision of the Code since 2014.

The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which depicts children modelling children’s clothing, where the poses of the children are natural and not sexualised, will not be considered exploitative and degrading.
  • Advertising which depicts children in swimwear, in an appropriate context, where the clothing and pose of the child is not sexualised and there is no undue focus on their body is not exploitative and degrading.

Depiction of men

Complaints regarding discrimination or vilification of men are also captured under Section 2.1 of the Code and the use of sex, sexuality and nudity is considered under Section 2.4.
The Community Panel has dismissed a number of complaints about the depiction of men under Section 2.2. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Females admiring or commenting on the attractiveness of males is not exploitative or degrading of the male, if they are depicted as confident and enjoying the attention.
  • Advertising which shows attractive men shirtless or naked - if they are not depicted in an overly sexualised manner and their genitals are covered – may be exploitative but where the men are shown in a positive manner it is not degrading.

Depiction of women

Upheld advertisements

The Community Panel has found a number of advertisements in breach of Section 2.2 of the Code for the use of sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading to women. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • Advertising which reduces a woman to a single part of her body and suggests that she is property or that she exists for the enjoyment of others is exploitative and degrading.
  • Advertisements for lingerie can breach this section of the code, if the advertisement suggests that the woman is the product, rather than the lingerie.
  • Images of naked women or women in lingerie, in sexualised poses, which have no relevance to the product or service being promoted are exploitative and degrading.

Relevance to product

​Advertisers should use caution depicting sexualised or nude images when there is no direct relevance to the product. The Community Panel’s view is:

  • When a woman is depicted in swimwear or underwear, and it is directly relevant to the product being sold, it is not degrading so long as the woman is depicted in a positive light and her pose is not overly sexualised.
  • It is reasonable for advertisers to use attractive models in their advertisements, if the women are not used in poses or situations which are exploitative and degrading.
  • It is reasonable to depict attractive models in costumes associated with brands or products being sold, and while it may be exploitative to use women in this way when they are portrayed in a positive light it is not considered degrading.
  • Images which involve women and men in consensual sexual poses is not considered degrading, however may breach other sections of the Code.
  • It is reasonable for advertisers to focus on the parts of women associated with the product they are promoting, and it is not exploitative and degrading to do so.
  • Artistic images of naked women or women in lingerie are not considered degrading when these images are used to highlight art or artistic skill.
    • Michael Warshall Picturemaker – 0228/15
    • Robyn Hills Photography – 0394/15
  • Depicting men admiring or commenting on the attractiveness of a woman, is not seen as exploitative and degrading if that woman is shown in a positive light and is appreciative of the attention.
  • In advertising for adult venues or products, it is reasonable for the advertiser to use images of scantily clad women, as long as there are no exposed nipples or genitals, and poses are not strongly sexualised.

Fashion and lingerie

  • It is reasonable for lingerie advertisers to depict women in the product they are selling, if the women are fully covered by their underwear and they are not posed in a provocative manner or in a manner suggestive of sexual activity.
  • Advertisements for fashion or perfume which depict women in stylised sexual poses may be considered exploitative, but are not considered degrading if the women are shown to be confident and in control.
  • Promotions for skin care products which show naked women with their breasts and genitals covered are not considered exploitative and degrading when the women’s poses are not overly sexualised and the focus is on their skin.

See also: Exploitative and degrading