Adidas ads featuring bare breasts photo grids are banned in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The clothing company’s promotional material for its sports bras, released in February, featured a grid of photos of several undressed women’s chests. The images, which appeared in a tweet and two posters, were intended to highlight body diversity and Adidas’ efforts to cater to all shapes and sizes.
The ASA said it had received 24 complaints about the ads.
Some argued that using nudity was pointless, objectifying women by sexualizing them and reducing them to body parts, according to the ASA ruling, published online Wednesday. Others questioned whether the poster ads were appropriate for display in a place where children could see them.
Both complaints were upheld and the advertisements should not appear again in the forms complained of, the authority said.
The ASA said it “recognized that the intent of the ads was to show that women’s breasts differed in shape and size, which was relevant to the sports bras being advertised.”
The authority said it did not believe that the way the women were portrayed was sexually explicit or made them an object.
But it added: “We felt that the depiction of naked breasts would likely be seen as explicit nudity. We noticed that the breasts were the main focus in the ads and less emphasis was placed on the bras themselves, which were only mentioned in the accompanying text.
The ASA added, “Since the ads contained explicit nudity, we felt they should be carefully targeted to avoid causing offense to those viewing them.”
Adidas was behind the campaign.
In a statement to CNN Business Thursday, Adidas said: “The creative gallery is designed to showcase just how diverse breasts are, with different shapes and sizes highlighting why tailored support is paramount.
“It’s important to note that the ASA ruling was related to the untargeted use of this ad rather than the ad itself and the message, which we are proud of.”
Adidas’ campaign went viral in February.
The company has the ad on its Twitter page below a link to the bra collection. The ad’s slogan was: #SupportIsEverything.
“We believe that women’s breasts of all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort,” Adidas said in the campaign. “That’s why our new range of sports bras includes 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.”
Adidas also put up a poster with the same cut-out images of 62 women’s bare breasts, declaring “The reasons why we didn’t make just one new sports bra.”
Another poster showed the same text and cropped images of 64 women, but their nipples were obscured by pixelation.
Women and men on Twitter both weighed in on Adidas’ marketing ploy — with decidedly mixed reactions.
Some Twitter users, mostly female consumers, said they would have preferred the bras over the boobs. Others said the ad was inappropriate, or that it caught them off guard and confused them. And some users said it was bold and applauded Adidas for it.