UK watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled in favour of consumer goods company Puig, after one of its fragrance adverts for Paco Rabanne received 120 complaints.
The ad, which promotes the luxury fragrance Pure XS, features a topless man being watched by a group of women from behind a bookshelf and then a mirror, as he slowly undresses. At the end of the ad, the women faint when the man sprays the fragrance towards his groin.
Complainants challenged whether the ad was sexist and objectified the man, as the subject of voyeurism, and the women who were depicted as powerless and weak.
Others also questioned the placement of the ad as it appeared during a commercial break for Channel 4 series Gogglesprogs, which stars children.
Puig defends ad's humour
However Puig stood by its ad, stating that Paco Rabanne is a fragrance brand that has always presented an exaggerated, highly stylised and fantastical world in all of its campaigns.
It said that its audience “had become accustomed to their ongoing humour and challenges between the sexes, empowering both men and women equally”.
On the topic of voyeurism, the company said that the man was aware of the women watching him and “playing up to the fact”, therefore he was not a victim.
Channel 4 confirmed that the ad was shown during a commercial break for Gogglesprogs but, although the ad features children, it is not specifically aimed at a child audience and is made to appeal to a broad adult audience.
ASA calls time on complaints
The ASA ruled in favour of Puig and Paco Rabanne. It stated: “The scenario depicted in the ad was not realistic and the tone was risqué but comedic and farcical.
“We considered the ad showed the male character’s attractiveness in a light-hearted, humorous way, rather than in a degrading or humiliating manner.
“We therefore considered viewers were likely to recognise the ad was a comical dramatisation of a surreal situation.”
It also did not uphold the complaints over sexism towards the women in the ad, saying that the actions of the women “contributed to the overall comedic tone of the ad”.