Life just keeps getting weirder and weirder. One day, boobs are good; the next, they're banned in Britain on billboards for their portrayal of headlamps. Britain is the last place you would think the girls would be put away. Britain is (in)famous for its portrayal of plunging-cleavage shots on TV shows such as "Benny Hill" and "Ab Fab" ("Absolutely Fabulous"), but is also the same country that publishes topless women weekly in newspapers, notably, The Sun's "Page 3 Girls," and the Daily Star's "Babes"
While both of the papers are entertainment and celebrity gossip-type tabloids, they're given huge amounts of leeway with topless models. However, other nude or semi-nude ads seem to spark controversy: Last month, American Apparel ran a print ad that took readers through unzipping a Flex Fleece Hoodie. The model eventually gets to point where a portion of her nipple is exposed. The ad ran in Vice Magazine, caused public outcry, and was banned subsequently.
Whether right or wrong (and I have no stance on British standards in advertising), the only difference I detect between the topless shots in the papers versus the questionable billboard is that the billboard is free while the papers require payment or subscription.
What's all the hoopla about with this billboard campaign? It's not any more or less, racy than a Victoria's Secret ad or outdoor display.
Understandably, there are regulations to ensure no young minds are corrupted by breasts and marketers' efforts to use breasts to sell stuff, and we're well aware of the fact that sexually based ads and campaigns sell. This leads to the dilemma of morality and advertising, which is way too big to cover here.
However, my question is this: Whether used to sell headlamps in Britain or promote men's awareness of breast cancer in North America, is it a fair advertising practice to approve or deny an ad based on the intent of the advertiser?
Rethink Breast Cancer's spot, "Save the Boobs," (below) follows a voluptuous woman in a bikini as she bounces her way through a swimming area.
Does this commercial merit approval based on the fact it supports a cause that could save a life, whereas the banned billboards are for headlights? Not using your headlights while driving could kill you, so don't headlights save lives, too?
I would argue that if society's intent is save the youth from corruption, both ads should be banned.
Here is where it gets weird: The headlight ad seems to succeed in purpose where the breast cancer spot fails. Why? Inciting controversy was the whole idea behind the cancer spot; stir people up, get them to react, get the spot on the news, and thereby raise awareness. Besides receiving accolades as being a great PSA by every 16-year-old with an Internet connection, it made but a ripple. The billboard got banned. Go figure.