The Advertising Standards Authority in South Africa has always been strict concerning the use of overt sex as an advertisement motivator.

But the proliferation of New Media has made assimilation and management far more difficult.

In a recent case in the UK, Facebook was used as a medium for what was in effect blatant sexting.

A recent social media advertising campaign created by Bendon and Mossimo encouraged people to take and upload photographs of themselves in their underwear. The UK Authority was concerned that such promotions could encourage "sexting".

Bendon's "Loveable Besties" campaign featured Australian supermodel Jennifer Hawkins and her model "bestie" taking self-portraits in Bendon's new range of brightly coloured underwear.  The Facebook advertisement added the caption "Take Selfies with Lovable Besties to Win Weekly Lovable Prizes".  

More recently another Mossimo Facebook advertisement encouraged entrants (over 16 years of age) to "check out Miss Universe Australia in her own Mossimo Peep Show".  Contestants were then encouraged to upload photographs of themselves in their underwear and "create their own peepshow" by placing a "peephole" template frame around each picture.

The UK Board found that visitors to the website would consider the advertisement to be encouraging people, including young teenagers, to practice sexting – that is, uploading explicit photographs to the internet or sending those images via mobile phones.

The message here is clear to South African advertisers – when using Social Media (or indeed any of the New Media) behave responsibly. Don't create campaigns of this nature.

Firstly, the chances are that someone in this country will spot and report communications of this nature to the ASA. South African levels of sexual tolerance in the media is way below countries like the UK. The consequences will be severe. Including court action.

Secondly, and probably even more importantly, to associate your brand with sleaze does you no favours at all. As many marketers and advertisers have learned to their cost over the years, damage to your brand can be very expensive to rectify – if it is possible at all. It just doesn't make marketing sense.

Naturally the potential damage that could be caused to young lives is beyond calculation. To be seen by one's peers as a potential rape target, is not always thought through by young people and the results could be catastrophic.

This has been amply proven in a current issue in Canada. Amanda Todd, then 12, was persuaded by a paedophile to send a topless photograph of herself to him. He promptly circulated this to her school. She was mercilessly bullied and so changed schools. The paedophile then spread the pictures to her new school. The result? At the age of 15 she hanged herself.

We are not suggesting that creative concepts should be namby pamby – just take a responsible attitude. And if you are not sure, consult a specialist legal practice like DM Kisch Inc, and don't get caught with your knickers down!


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.