Page 4, 15th March 1996

15th March 1996
Page 4
Page 4, 15th March 1996 — Nudity lowers the advertising standards

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Nudity lowers the advertising standards

As the Catholic Herald reports this week, a father of five and self-avowed Christian is attempting to ban lurid posters near schools and nurseries. Mr Ferris Lindsay believes that increasingly sexually explicit advertising is harming children, preventing them from developing a healthy view of sex.

It is hard to disagree with Mr Lindsay's analysis. Of course, advertisers have always pushed sex as the main seller of goods, but such promotion used to be more covert and circumspect. Twenty years ago, no car advert was complete without a bikini-clad blonde draped over it, but the sub-text was just that implied rather than stated.

Today, in our sex-obsessed society, it is considered wrong and puritanical to be reticent about such matters. Concern about the impact that inyour-face nudity may have on your children will draw accusations of Mary Whitehouse-ish prudery: it is tantamount to turning the clock back and donning once more an asphyxiating corset. It has become the concern that dare not speak its name.

In order to promote their products, advertisers are ruthlessly resorting to more and more provocative methods. Why should advertisers hide a pair of breasts on 12-foot hoardings when they can be revealed? Why bother covering a naked couple entwined in bed with a sheet, or hold back from printing "it's not all sex, sex, sex" on a Club 18-30 advert?

Why, in short, should people bother?

They should be concerned because such adverts offend the taste of decent people, and corrupt the innocence of the young and vulnerable. Children are all too often subjected to images of sex and violence on television and videos do the advertisers have to add their strident calls to this garish chorus? Moreover, if the image merely captures the passionate, or the unclad, without depicting the context and the many consequences in which this occurs, it robs the viewer of any understanding of deeds as part of a chain of consequences, actions and reactions.

It will be argued by the loud minority that these adverts are good, clean fun. In truth they are neither good (how much creative mastery lies in nudity and sexual suggestion?) nor fun. The increasingly coarse nature of modern advertising with explicit hoardings cheek-to-jowl with bus shelters outside school gates is not only damaging, but miserable.

It is now time for the largely ineffectual Advertising Standards Authority to lay down the rules and clean up advertising. If life, in Hobbes' words, is in danger of becoming "nasty, brutish and short", then nowhere is this depressing prognosis more applicable than to advertising.

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