Have you ever had a media ground-hog day? When today is a total repeat of yesterday and tomorrow offers all the mystery of last week? Bit like watching SABC or endless reruns of Midsomer Murders on DSTV. Gordon Muller has.
I had one recently! I felt like I’d woken up behind the boerewors curtain in the ‘60s. When the world was run by men with grey shoes and the latest edition of Scope magazine was the most eagerly awaited social event of the week for the average South African teenage boy.
So what triggered the flashback?
The recently released ASA Statement on Sexual Imagery in Outdoor Advertising is based on the proposed British model, which is the outcome of an engagement with the children and parents of Cardiff. Yes, that’s the one. Cardiff. In Wales. The new standard, which I am reliably informed will be adopted in South Africa, is “designed to reduce the amount of outdoor advertising that contains sexualised imagery in locations where the children are likely to see it”!
As in the UK, the ASA will take decisions on a case-by-case basis. This two-tiered approach will inter alia …
(i) Consider carefully what is likely to be acceptable in outdoor advertising informed by the new evidence from Wales, of the public’s view of outdoor images
(ii) Focus on sexual images in locations of particular relevance to children, with a view to applying a placement restriction where appropriate.
Now, the fact that all this is happening at a time when TopTV is about to launch three 24/7 porn channels notwithstanding, I am confident that most responsible advertisers would endorse this stance. I certainly do.
It is, however, in the application of these ASA rules that things are going to get really interesting and reminiscent of life with Scope magazine. When considering complaints about sexual imagery on outdoor, the ASA will take into account …
- The nature of the product
- The context of the ad and its location
- The audience and the likely response of that audience
- The size of the advertisement
Yes, apparently when it comes to sexual imagery in outdoor, size does count.
In order to assist us with our creative executions, the ASA has very kindly provided us with a series of images that illustrate the critical parameters within which we need to operate. So for instance, in image one “the model is wearing a bikini and holding a pose which is unlikely to be sexually suggestive” whilst in image two “the women is drawing attention to her groin area and is therefore sexually suggestive”.
Now, quickly … Shift your gaze between the two pictures. Sexy girl! Not sexy girl! Sexy! Not sexy! Can you see it? Good.
For those of you young people in media who are reading this blog without the benefit of adult supervision, it’s important to recall that, back in the day, Scope magazine didn’t even attempt to categorize beautiful women into covertly sexy and overtly sexy. They were all girls in bikinis and worthy of the same undivided attention. Indeed, some were elevated to even more legendary status among teenage boys through the strategic placement of stars.
Image three apparently shows a topless man “whose pose is unlikely to be considered sexually suggestive”. Why isn’t this guy sexy? Why has he got his shirt off and his jeans around his hips? Answers …
- He comes from Upington and the weather there is really very hot?
- He is very poor and can’t afford a shirt?
- He only has one nice shirt and his mother is washing it?
- He has a great six pack & wants to look sexy?
- None of the above?
Good grief! As a bachelor even I knew that step one in the courtship process was to get your shirt off and I didn’t even have six pack! More a slab of Nestlé that had been left out in the sun a little too long!
So, by now of course, you’re getting the idea. Indeed, many of you may already be applying for a position on the ASA ‘copy advice team’. Certainly, in the days of The Groot Krokodil positions such as this were highly sought after at the old Censorship Board.
Of course in media it’s as much about placement as it is about content, right! So, because they are not sexy, images one and three may be placed within 100 metres of a school whilst the offensive image two, may not. At this point perhaps, like me, you’re asking “why 100 metres”? Why not 115metres or 95 metres? It would appear that whatever happens to the teenage brain in the twilight zone from 105 metres to 95 metres would torture the unrestrained imaginings of Sigmund Freud himself!
I confidently predict that any sign, projecting an image of a beautiful woman “attracting attention to her groin area”, placed within a 200 metre radius of a boys school (let alone 100 metres) will within the first week be integrated into the 1st XV initiation ceremony. By which I mean the inevitable 400m dash there and back between the bell-ringing for class changeover. To protect sensitive readers, I won’t divulge what happens at the sign itself, prior to the return dash!
Of course, some images are so offensive that they may not be placed on outdoor at all, let alone within 100 metres of a school.
The woman in image four is shown “both in lingerie and in a seductive pose” and is therefore subject to the “100 metres restriction” whilst the woman in image five is acting in a “sexual and seductive way and may not be suitable for general outdoor display at all”.
See the difference? Sexual. Not sexual. Sexual. Not sexual.
Now, maybe schoolboys have changed over the years. In my day, clearly we did not have the same level of discernment when it came to the difference between seductive and sexual imagery. The sight of a student teachers bra strap was enough to evoke a frenzy of tortured imaginings. The sight of a beautiful woman in lingerie would have brought any lesson to a premature and irretrievable halt. We didn’t have Twitter in those days but if we did it would certainly have trended within seconds.
Upon reflection I am almost certain that woodwork classes were exclusively created for the purpose of such meanderings!
So where do we go next as an industry in an effort to regulate morality in advertising? Stop selling FHM magazine at service stations positioned within a 100 metres of the nearest school? Ban Cosmopolitan? Good grief … there are more clues for a teenage Lothario in the average issue of Cosmo than in the collective sexual wisdom of the entire sixth form!
Come on guys. Ban the stuff outright on outdoor if you have to, but for goodness sakes let’s not go down this route again. Either that or bring back the stars. And if you’re not old enough to know what that means, ask your dad! He’ll tell you all about it.
This story was originally published on Gordon Muller’s blog site, Khuluma Media.