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The perils of 'highly sexualised' advertising


Brands’ messaging is in a reflexive relationship with its audience: corporate media is inspired by the social media activity it’s reputed to inspire. Culture is certainly changing, but in a subtly different way than reports suggest. What’s new is the escalating disparity between what we say, and what we do. Boohoo has long understood this anomaly of public opinion, and successfully navigated it; while industry commentators have been distracted by trending narratives that customers identify with, Boohoo has maintained a laser-clear focus instead on their behaviour. By example, in a climate reported to be increasingly hostile to brand failures in sustainability and worker rights, Boohoo’s judgement that the public appetite remains driven mostly by price is vindicated in each reporting quarter; by contrast, I can’t recall the last Draper’s headline that a sustainable brand’s revenues have ‘rocketed’ towards eight figures. In the Instagram sphere, the choice image accompanying a bold statement about social justice and gender equality is very often a gratuitous thong bikini shot with pouted lips. Increasing tolerance of non-binary notions of gender has done nothing to diminish the public’s celebration of the original dichotomy: Caitlyn Jenner is still a sideshow to the living gender stereotype that is Kim Kardashian. Stepping into the user-generated visual culture, Boohoo will be curating content tested for engagement and click-through. Never before has marketing content been so driven in response to customer tastes, rather than in an effort to influence them. Frances Griffin, cited in the article, makes the poignant point that the regulator’s role is, then, to chasten retailers against endorsing irresponsible trends. But that’s a different point to the suggestion that the regulator is doing so in reflection of a wider public intolerance to such imagery; the public has never been so tolerant, complicit, and actively involved in gender stereotyping than it is now. Only the language has changed.

Posted date

5 November 2019

Posted time

12:05 pm