First Ecoya's sexy billboard on Auckland's Fanshawe St featuring a naked woman astride a white horse was boldly stolen by mystery assailants. And now the same billboard has been given a slap by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The billboard was part of a series for the 'eco-luxury' brand's bodycare range that was aimed at showing women's connection to nature. But some found it too provocative and the ASA board agreed it was in contravention of a few codes and principles (download the ruling here).
Interestingly, the ASA board felt it differed from an America's Next Top Model billboard that featured a model posing naked on the back of a ute, which was complained about but not upheld.
These complaints are generally taken quite seriously and often include quite a bit of formal waffle and legalese from brands and media owners trying to justify the ads and explain the rationale behind them. But the best bit of this one was the response by one D. Parsons on behalf of Ecoya.
This ad for Ecoya bodycare is part of a series of three executions in which women are shown relating to animals. Ecoya bodycare is a natural based range of products and the company has an ethos of environmentalism which underpins everything they do. So these executions were just a visualisation of "women interacting with nature" - the advertising extension of the company philosophy.
I'm not saying this was the most brilliant piece of advertising thinking in the world, but that's how we got to where we did.
The execution that has caused outrage is the 'Lady Godiva' execution which is roughly based on the 18th century painting by John Collier. It shows a nude woman riding a horse.
However, even though she is nude all you can see is a naked leg, a naked arm and a naked waist/torso. No boobs. No bum. No pink bits. Not even any cleavage. Technically, you could argue that the 300 year old oil painting by Collier is more explicite. So while one complainant says "it leaves nothing to the imagination" it actually in fact leaves everything to the imagination as there is nothing that we would currently consider 'offensive nudity' present.
If the woman was wearing a bikini then I doubt anyone would have complained. But all you would have seen of the bikini would have been a string going under her arm and a string going across her hip. Those two bits of string would have probably made everything ok. Which is just silly.
I really do think that the complaints have come from some people who are uncomfortable with their own sexuality and are projecting it back onto the Ecoya billboard.
That said, those people have every right to say they were offended and/or unfairly sexually aroused.
So at this point I would also like to point out that Ecoya bodycare is a range of body and skin care products for women. Arousing men, either intentionally or unintentionally has zero benefit to Ecoya. Similarly, using women in an exploitive or derogatory way to sell products to women also has zero benefit to Ecoya.
I will admit the woman on the horse looks sexually empowered in some way. But I'm completely ok with that. I don't see anything wrong with strong women and it's interesting that none of the complaints have come from feminists. If this image was used as the front cover of The Female Eunuch I don't think anyone would mind - (except me as I think Germaine Greer is a bit of a dick), or if it was part of an exhibition at the Art Gallery I don't think anyone would complain either.
We've even got the horse/girl poster up in Smith and Caughy and no one seems to care - and let's be honest, their clientele is hardly the most liberal body of people in the greater Auckland area.
It didn't get them off the hook, but he raises some pretty good points.