Punished Creativity

Modern-day female oppression: Adidas’s banned breasts ad

What is Adidas’s banned breasts ad?

Creativity rarely remains unpunished and Adidas have something to say on the matter. In a recent ad of what seems to be a thoughtful attempt at inclusivity, Adidas published an image of 62 female breasts (or should I say 124 since they come in pairs?)

Modern-day female oppression: Adidas's banned breasts ad

In my humble opinion, the message is quite noble:

The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra

In Adidas’s words the images “were intended to reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important“.

They’re right if you ask me. Breasts come in all shape and sizes and literally every woman out there will tell you the same. The search for the right bra is a tale as old as times and some women have never really had a comfortable bra. But this is not what this post is about.

The ASA’s response (Advertising Standards Authority)

But the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) wasn’t having it. After the only 24 complaints (in a country of 57 million people) they demanded from Adidas to take the ads down.

The complaints

1) Showing breasts is sexualisation

One complaint stated that the “use of nudity was gratuitous, objectified women by sexualising them and reducing them to body parts, challenged whether they were harmful and offensive”.

I don’t know what kind of backwards thinking this is, ladies and gents, but it sure ain’t something that belongs in 2022.

Breasts are a body part – end of story. And when the product is a bra it makes total frickin’ sense.

I wonder what would have been the response from the public if the ad depicted 62 types of feet and advertised shoes. Would that have “reduced a human to a body part and sexualised them”?


Breasts are not a sexual organ. They have a function and it sure isn’t sexual. So I can’t help but say that I feel misrepresented by the ASA. Their action is limiting my right and ability to learn about a product that is likely to be beneficial to me. Big no no, dudes… Get a grip and check your own perceptions – it’s your own thoughts that are making breasts a sexual object and you’re probably not the right people to be holding the positions you’re at.

2) Children might see it

The second, truly bizarre complaint comes in the form of “Some complainants also challenged whether ads (b) and (c) were appropriate for display where it could be seen by children.”

Erm, children have been seeing breasts from day 1. They’ve even used them. Shielding children from tastefully displayed (which they are) images of body parts will not help create mentally stable adults.

A study by West Virginia University (published in 2016) confirms concerns that overprotective parenting is linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression, low academic self-esteem, and narcissistic disorder1

ASA’s justification

Despite the ASA somewhat agreeing with Adidas that the images celebrate the female body, they still insisted that the ads are taken down. Their reasoning can be summarised in these two statements:

  • The ads don’t look like Adidas’s usual content
    And I can’t help but wonder if brands aren’t allowed to evolve and be creative.
  • The ad was not targeted and might be seen by children on Twitter
    So, if it ain’t paid for, they can’t do it but it’s ok if they pay for it then?

What’s truly disturbing

What I find incredibly concerning in this situation is the Code of Conduct rules that these ads were seen to violate and in particular rule 4.1. Since there’s no way to summarise it, here it is:

Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.

Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.

The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. 

CAP 4.1

So, my dear reader, if you didn’t know it before, you do now – breasts are offensive. See, it came as a surprise to me, too… So, evidently, women breastfeeding in public or sunbathing topless are offending society.

Welcome to 2022 where everyone wants to be contemporary but cannot progress mentally beyond the Middle Ages.

2 ASA Ruling:

3 The range of bra’s Adidas was trying to advertise:

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