The UK’s advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert from haute couture label Miu Miu which showed a child model in a “hazardous or dangerous situation”. The advert, which featured in Tatler Magazine, showed a 14-year old model wearing 1940s-inspired adult clothing and sitting on railway tracks. A complainant said that the model looked like she was or had been crying and challenged whether it was irresponsible as they believed it was suggestive of youth suicide and could be seen by impressionable young people. The ASA also challenged whether the advert was irresponsible for showing a child in an unsafe location. In response, Prada Retail UK Ltd (Prada), which is behind the Miu Miu brand, said that the advert was part of a serious, high-fashion campaign aimed at adult women and was only published in adult magazines such as Tatler. It said that the model was not crying, nor had she been asked to cry or to look upset. The advert was not created to give an impression of youth suicide, nor was it made with the intention of depicting a child in an unsafe location. The photograph had been taken on an abandoned railway, the model was not restrained in any way and it was clear from the extended viewpoint that there was no train in sight.
The ASA dismissed the complaint about youth suicide, holding that the model was not shown looking in distress or crying and that the advert would be seen by a predominantly adult readership. However it upheld the second complaint. The ASA concluded that, although the model was not restrained on the track or seen playing on it, and there was no train in sight, the advert was shot in a potentially hazardous location and was therefore “irresponsible”.
We are used to seeing the ASA taking a firm stance on adverts which sexualise children (e.g., see here how American Apparel learnt from its mistakes), or promote unhealthy behavior (e.g., see here our summary on the banned Kate Moss t-shirt slogan), however this decision takes the ASA’s protection of children significantly further. Advertisers should therefore be mindful of depicting children in situations which may suggest even the potential for danger or hazard.