American Apparel ads banned for ‘normalising predatory sexual behaviour’

American Apparel has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog over images used as part of its ‘back to school’ campaign that could ‘normalise predatory sexual behaviour’. 

american apparel 2014 460

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that images featured on the retailer’s website and Instagram account were “gratuitous”, “sexist” and “objectified woman”.

The first of the two images showed a girl bending over to touch the ground with a picture taken from a low angle showing her crotch and bottom. The second featured a girl leaning into a car, again with her bottom visible.

In defence, American Apparel said the pictures were not graphic, explicit or pornographic and the models used were real people that were not portrayed in a manner that was vulnerable, negative or exploitative.

The retailer also claimed the woman used in the ads was 30 years old and that the images only went out on its website and social media, were people had opted in to see images “consistent with the American Apparel branding”.

However, the ASA slammed the ads for their attempt to “imitate voyeuristic ‘up-skirt’ shots” that looked like they had been taken without consent. It said that in the context of a skirt marketed to young woman this had the potential to “normalise a predatory sexual behaviour” and “inappropriately sexualise school-age girls”.

It banned the ads, warning American Apparel to ensure its advertising in future is prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and would not cause serious offence.

American Apparel is no stranger to controversy and this is not the first time it has incurred the wrath of the ASA. Last year, the US retailer saw three of its ads banned in the space of four months for using “overtly sexual images”, “sexualising a child” and using “unnecessarily sexual and inappropriate imagery”.

Latest from Marketing Week

Mark Ritson investigates: Recreational marijuana

After probing America’s newest industry four key questions spring to mind: Which will be the big marijuana brands of the future? Why does scale drive ad effectiveness? What day is it? And, why have my legs stopped working?


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here