Urban Outfitters was recently told to pull an online underwear ad featuring a skinny model from its United Kingdom site. Advertising regulators claimed that the model’s “inner thigh gap” promoted an image that was “irresponsible and harmful,” because the model was “too skinny.” Those same advertising regulators in the United Kingdom had received complaints from citizens in the U.K. about the photo. The ad showed a pair of polka-dot bikini briefs, and the complaints said that the model who was pictured from the waist down was “unhealthily thin,” according to the agency’s ruling.
Urban Outfitters was ordered to take down the advertisement as a result. Urban Outfitters online underwear pages show small pictures of models from their waists to their thighs. A lot of the images show a gap between the thighs, but the pulled picture (shown below) caused a controversy.
In its adjudication, the Advertising Authority explained its ruling.
“The [Advertising Standards Authority] considered that the model was very thin, and noted, in particular, that there was a significant gap between the model’s thighs, and that her thighs and knees were a similar width. We considered that the model looked underweight in the picture. We understood that Urban Outfitters’ target market was young people and considered that using a noticeably underweight model was likely to impress upon that audience that the image was representative of the people who might wear Urban Outfitters’ clothing, and as being something to aspire to. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.”
Urban Outfitters reportedly responded that although the model was thin, they did not think that she was underweight. The “inner thigh gap” has become trendy for women and girls who believe that having a space between their inner thighs while standing is considered ideal.
Urban Outfitters expanded on their opinion that the ad wasn’t inappropriate.
“They added that it was common practice to use slim models in the underwear industry, but they did not consider that the model was underweight or unhealthily thin; they considered she had a naturally tall and slim physique.
There are, of course, two sides to the debate. Model Nikki French said no one should be surprised by a skinny model in a clothing ad.
“That’s the way our society is. We promote those skinny models. The majority of models are really thin and the agents will only take you if you are a specific size. It’s the way it’s been ingrained in the fashion industry.”
On the flip side, Lynn Grefe, president of the National Eating Disorders Association in the United States, says it’s not “normal” to encourage such unattainable body types.
“People come in different shapes and sizes. These images fuel the fire of eating disorders and poor self body image and advertisers should have to take more responsibility.”
What do think? Should government agencies and citizen’s groups decide what advertisers can and can’t do? Should companies be barred from utilizing “too skinny” models in their ads?