Controversial Advertising Analysis Assignment

Controversial Advertising Analysis Assignment

Executive Summary

This Controversial Advertising Analysis Assignment report is briefly discussing and analyzing a controversial advertisement published on vogue magazine February 2003 edition. In this advertisement controversy a female model was pictured showing her pubic hairs shaved in the form of brand logo of famous fashion brand GUCCI. The report analyses the impacts of advertisement on its target audience and also researches to find out the perception of communication among the target population and general population as well. It was also observed during the research that how Gucci avoided the ban on advertisement by publishing the advertisement only in selected magazines rather than public display of the advertisement. In the end the researcher has discussed the ethical consideration and code of conduct expected from advertisers and media industry and provided some recommendations which might assist in reducing the number of controversial advertisement published in the industry.

Controversial Advertising Analysis Assignment


Advertising and controversy goes hand in hand since decades. The aim of any advertisement is to gain attention of people and make them stop and notice the message. To attain the objective many advertisers would not refrain from breaking boundaries of ethics’ human rights and negative psychological impacts it might create on general population (Murphy, P. E, 2004.  Here in this report one of such controversial advertisement will be briefly discussed and analyzed for its impacts on the target audiences and general population. The report will also reflect on the fact that objectives of the advertisement were achieved or not and if yes was the objectives right in the first place. The advertisement which we are studying here is developed for one of the biggest brand is fashion industry “GUCCI”. The ad is commonly known as the “G” ad of Gucci in which a model is shown with her pubic hairs shaved in a particular way so it resembles the brand logo og Gucci “ G”. The advertisement also shows another model crouching between the legs of first model and admiring it. The photograph in this pose was taken by world renowned photographer Mario Testino and the advertisement was first published in February edition of Vogue magazine in year 2003.

Analysis of Target Audience and Communication

The advertisement is basically using the shock advertisement or shockvertisement as a concept to gain attention of media and its target audience. It has been a regular occurrence in fashion industry to gain popularity by publishing controversial advertisement and then creating a buzz about it. There are many brand names like United Colors of Benetton’ Dolce and Cabana etc which are blamed for in appropriate advertisement for years.

The target audience of this particular advertisement is young urban crowd which is highly impacted by the changing trends in fashion. Teenagers’ college going students and young working people are the main audience which is targeted by this advertisement. It is naturally assumed that age old people and conservative population might find this advertisement distasteful but since they are not the target audience for company they prefer to ignore that. The secondary targets of the company are adult hood approaching people who want to look young and in resonance with fashion and with this advertisement they might aspire to look young and exciting. Another secondary target of this advertisement could be media and various social groups who will resist this advertisement for its overly sexual component and make the advertisement more popular (Turner C. 2010).

The communication which is developed here is communicating the importance of fashion in a young individual’s life and also highlighting the attached sexual appeal with it. The communication was developed by professionals of advertisement who added just sufficient component to make it controversial and on the verge of nudity so that it remains controversial and debatable rather than being banned outright. The medium for spreading the advertisement is also appropriately chose as Vogue magazine has been known for capturing the fashion trends very early in industry. The target audience (teenagers’ young working professionals and college students) especially females who are more avid readers of fashion magazines and Gucci is marketing fashionable clothes and accessories for them. So it can be stated that advertisement is targeting the right audience through a right channel but the controversial part is the overly sexual component of the advertisement in which a model is showing her pubic hairs shaved in company’s brand logo. The controversy is actually making the advertisement more attractive and spreading it into the audiences which were originally not meant to be targeted. The related articles on news channels’ other magazines is making children’s and adults to know about it and see it which is the most dangerous impact of this advertisement (The vogue 2003).

Analysis of Consumer Insight and in Response to Intended Message

Consumers in various countries were complaining against this advertisement and considered it as degrading and overly toned in sexual component. The Gucci was successful in avoiding a ban over the advertisement because of its well executed strategy to publish it only in 4 leading fashion magazines of the world. There argument was these magazines were read majorly by the adults and fashion conscious youngsters who would not be offended by the exposure of the model pictured in the advertisement. The banning authority on controversial advertisement The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority), declared that they have received several complaints from the consumer behaviour regarding the nature of advertisement and they are investigating it from all aspects. As it is published in reports of various news channels many people deemed the advertisement as coarse, vile and degrading to women. Director of Mediawatchuk, John Beyer, a leading figure in advertisement and media industry has called for an instantaneous ban of this image because of the harmful impacts it might create on the mind of young and children. It is arguable here that even though the impact will not be so great on adults but there is no way to ensure that this advertisement is viewed by them only. It is a very possibility that children and very young teenagers also sees the advertisement and gets influenced by the sexual component of the advertisement. It might influence the young female readers to follow the same trend which can have serious impact on their studies and healthy brain development. The sexually distorted images can impact the young minds and they might co relate the idea that to be sexually attractive they have to go for these extreme measures. The over exposure of the female form makes it a object of display which is definitely degrading and disrespectful for all female members of the society.  Many female consumers object to the fact that this type of advertisement displaces there respectful position in the society and families and makes them more of a display object rather than human beings (Mitchener B, 2001). Many families also complained of facing difficult questions from their children which they are unable to answer completely and they fear that their children might look for the answers elsewhere thus exposing themselves to similar sexually explicit component damaging their studies and perception for opposite sexes. In case of Gucci’s Hairy advertisement (as mentioned in various articles) "The authority considered that the execution had been carefully targeted and that its sexual nature was unlikely to offend the fashion conscious readership," the ASA said, adding that although it was likely to be considered tasteless by some readers it was "unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence" (Cozens C. 2003)

Advertising Ethics and Recommendations

Mass media and social media is an industry which has a direct impact on the general population and considering their role in the society it is expected from media that they maintain a strict code of ethics on the component they publish. It is observed by many researchers and academicians that many media organization places the market share and TRP above the ethics in advertising and often present the facts in a twisted form so that the receiver remain confused and gets only partially correct information. Many organizations and marketing firms also indulge themselves into unethical practices by choosing the delivery modes and channels of a communication which are controversial in nature or offending a particular community and society (Davidson, D. K. 2002).   This main aim of such unethical advertising is to create controversies in the market and create a buzz about the product and services. This type of advertising is usually created by adding a sexual component’ or targeting a particular race’ color’ religion or community of the society or involving a controversial topic in their advertising plan.  The advertisement which has been the main theme of this report has breached a few ethical code of advertising by publishing a picture of a female model showing her pubis hairs. This kind of exposure is indicates involvement of highly aggressive and sexual tone in the advertisement and for many conservative communities and children’s it can be safely deemed as degrading and disrespectful (McGee T. and Heubusch K, 1997). Many women rights organizations and watchdog of press freedom also consider such public display of female nudity very demeaning for the women in general and condemns such conduct by advertising companies’ media and fashion industry. It is recommended after analyzing the whole incidence that

  1. Advertisements should be screened by the competent authorities before authorizing them to be published in magazines which are available for all customers freely.
  2. Advertisements should also be rated as universal or adult to ensure that they cannot be displayed in places where it is visible to audience like children or young teenagers.
  3. Any controversial advertisement should be removed from public display till the final decision can be made on its status. This will discourage the advertisers who want to gain popularity by producing controversial advertisement.
  4. Each advertisement should mandatorily disclose its target audience and justification for the channels it is using to spread the roles and communication. This clause will deter the controversial advertisement to be displayed on large hoardings and family viewing channels which will reduce the exposure level to untargeted audience (Pascaline D, 2001).


  • Christopher Turner (2010). Controversial Advertisements: Sex In Fashion Ads. Available: Last accessed 3rd Jan 2012.
  • Claire Cozens (2003) Close shave for Gucci ad. Available: Last accessed 3rd Jan 2012.
  • The vogue (2003) TOM'S PUBIC AD AVOIDS BAN. Available: Last accessed 1st Jan 2012.
  • Davidson, D. Kirk (2002) the Moral Dimension of Marketing: Essays on Business Ethics. South-Western Educational
  • Murphy, Patrick E.; Gene R. Laczniak, Norman E. Bowie (2004) Ethical Marketing Prentice Hall
  • Tom McGee and Kevin Heubusch, (1997),  `Getting Inside Kids' Heads', American Demographics, Vol. 19, No. 1
  • Brandon Mitchener, (2001) "Sweden Pushes Its Ban on Children's Ads," Wall Street Journal, May 29, , available: Last accessed 2nd Jan 2012.