ASA gets hot and bothered over Jack Wills shots

The upmarket clothing retailer gets its wrists slapped over risqué shots in its spring catalogue. We're sure it's devastated.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Jack Wills, the preferred clothing retailer of polo-playing teenagers the land over, is in a spot of bother over some of the pictures in its ‘Easter Handbook’ (aka spring catalogue). The Advertising Standards Authority has taken exception to risqué shots featuring scenes of, er, heavy petting and (gasp!) skinny dipping; describing them as ‘beyond what could be described as fun or flirtatious’. Jack Wills has been quick to defend itself. But on the grounds that all publicity is good publicity, we suspect it won't be too disappointed...

There’s nothing funnier than a priggish bureaucrat talking about an inappropriately sexy scene, so here are some choice excerpts from the ASA’s ruling. In one picture, apparently, ‘the side of a woman’s breast was clearly visible and her left leg was wrapped around [a] man who was holding it in position’. In another, a girl’s skirt ‘lifted to show her upper thigh, buttocks and the lower section of her knickers’. Other contentious shots showed a woman being undressed by a man and a group of young people laughing ‘and undressing’ on a beach. Oo-er.

Advertisers using sex to sell their products is hardly a new phenomenon, of course. And by the standards of the average magazine fashion shoot these days, these pictures seem pretty tame (at least to the broad-minded folk at MT). However, the ASA insists that could be damaging to the company’s legions of adolescent public school fans, who might ‘aspire’ to the sort of lifestyle portrayed in the pictures. No kidding...

For its part, Jack Wills argues that its target demographic is actually people like Prince Harry and Emma Watson – ie posh students and twentysomethings – not schoolchildren. Apparently, anyone who wants a copy of the catalogue (sorry, ‘Handbook’) has to tick a box to say they’re over 18. Which we're sure is an incredibly effective deterrent.

As defences go, this sounds a bit mealy-mouthed to us. But frankly, we find it hard to believe that a company that markets itself as ‘supplying a heavy dose of the hedonistic university lifestyle’, is too flustered by the ruling. For a start, a bit of media outrage provides great free PR. And for a brand like this, a slap on the wrist for overly-sexy advertising is the corporate equivalent of a JW-clad public school girl being made to write lines for having an over-enthusiastic pillow-fight. Actually, that sounds like a good idea for its next shoot…

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