Jack Wills' Too-Saucy Advert: A Brief History of Banned Ads

By Gary Cutlack on at

Fashion outlet brand Jack Wills is the reason we've gathered you all here today, as it's had a catalogue banned for being too sexy. It included photos of women brushing their teeth while not wearing any clothes, as smug men clearly responsible for what happened to their mouth and clothes look on.

It's also a bit raunchy elsewhere thanks to unrealistic party scenes like this, but we're mostly bothered by it because it looks like a crappy clone of what American Apparel has been doing for years and surely the UK deserves better than decade-later thematic clones that aren't even as arty as the AA teeny porn ads.

WHY BAN IT? It was sexually suggestive according to the Advertising Standards people, and younger people might see it and use it as porn, because porn's really hard to get hold of thanks to the government.

IS IT THAT BAD? The photo is your typical idealised teens hanging out shot. Maybe it's just the caption "Midnight mischief" that pushed it over the edge and made some suits think it's actually suggesting a group-sex-a-thon is happening. Not really that bad, just quite silly to suggest that underwear parties are really a thing. Maybe they are and I just never get invited.

But Jack Wills is far from the first brand to get a slap on the wrist for it's suggestive advertising campaigns. From jibes exploiting the disabled to gory billboards, here's a quick look at some other ads that have caused a stir among media standards campaigners.

Kazam, 2015

Kazam, a young budget mobile phone brand targeting the UK, had the amazing idea of putting a woman in her underwear to promote its phones. This would have been great had it been 1957 and the bra was conical and the pants covered her belly button, but sadly the promotion was launched in February of 2015, way after scientists discovered women were actually people not just things.

WHY BAN IT? Even in the distant days of 2015 it was not acceptable to put women in their underwear and parade them about like they've just been captured in the jungle and brought home to exhibit in the hope that men go "phwoar" and buy a product they've been put near, hence it was banned. The fact that it wasn't a bras and pants advert meant the watchdog found it unrelated to the thing being sold, and was also deemed too sexually suggestive thanks to its close-ups of boobs and bums.

IS IT THAT BAD? Yep - stupidly out of touch. You can imagine the meeting (in a pub) where cackling men -- raised on Chris Evans and Pot Noodle adverts -- planned to blow the UK mobile scene to pieces by using a bit of 1990s lad culture to sell their mobile phone. Embarrassing for all involved. For some reason the unrelated but similar "beach body ready" one that got the internet furious got a pass.

Paddy Power, 2014

Deciding to make a joke about a murderer (or a culpable homicider as he was for a bit) saw Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorius ad instantly pulled, as the bookmaker foolishly thought that also getting a joke in about his physical deformity was a double winner.

WHY BAN IT? He was on trial for murder. It's laughing at a disabled man. He can't walk! Has malformed legs that were amputated below the knee as a child! Ha ha! Bet now! Free bonus for account activations! The only way this could've been worse was if it promised to cut the fins off 1,000 dolphins and throw them back in the sea if he got off.

IS IT THAT BAD? Even in Paddy Power land where being jokingly offensive all the time like pre-reformation period Chris Moyles is the done thing, it was really quite a dumb thing. It's more like a Facebook post from one of your sister's stupid ex-boyfriends, the one with the modified Corsa and tattoos, than a proper advert that grown-ups made and approved. And yet, Paddy Power still exists despite doing things like this. There is no justice.

Gucci, 2016

This Gucci ad was banned after one person complained its model looked too thin. They have a point, as it does look like she's so wasted away by the demands of the fashion industry that her trunk doesn't have the necessary strength to hold her arms up.

WHY BAN IT? She looks too gaunt and "unhealthily thin" in the pic, plus the sad face makes the scene seem more depressing. She is thin but still not happy, despite what previous generations of advertising led her to believe.

IS IT THAT BAD? It does look like she's been photographed in the process of fainting from only eating as much for breakfast as Mr Skinny, so yes, you probably wouldn't want your daughter trying to recreate the image.

Yves Saint Laurent, 2000

One of Sophie Dahl's many incarnations was as the Enemy of the State in the year 2000, when sticking her naked bar some shoes and symbolic pearls on bus shelters and the sides of buildings was deemed a bit much. Everyone went mad, and this was before the internet really took hold and people just pretended to be mad for something to do. People were really mad.

WHY BAN IT?  It was the old "sexually suggestive" peanut again, with the ad picking up 948 complaints because of, well, the thought crimes most people can't help but commit upon seeing it. Imagine if you could... there you go. Impossible to see it and not imagine things.

IS IT THAT BAD? She's probably glad she did it, but it's also a bit much for casual spreading about on the hoardings of the UK. It's also unlikely anyone remembers the brand or product it's selling, as it's all about the flesh. And that's not for sale.

Miu Miu, 2011

Fashion brand Miu Miu put a girl on some train tracks and told her to look sad. No one spoke up.

WHY BAN IT? Mental health issues are not to be made light of, so to use an image that implies a sad girl on the brink of suicide is a fitting way to sell blouses is more than a little off. Also, the actress in the shot was only 14 when it was taken back in 2011. This image crashed through so many failsafe procedures. It's a Chernobyl of advertising imagery.

IS IT THAT BAD? Kids and train tracks are one of the nation's best known bad combinations of things, right behind speeding drivers and ice cream vans. You don't want to go encouraging children to sit on train tracks when they're sad because actress Hailee Steinfeld said it was OK in an advert in Tatler, even if it is nicely shot like a Hitchcock scene.

United Colors of Benetton, 1996

Benetton had a lucky escape, in that its worst/best controversial ads mostly arrived during pre-internet days and have therefore escaped being processed by today's rage machinery into full-blown, front page, sad-faced apologising company executive scandals. Condoms, AIDS, racial issues and more shook people up in the 1990s, as, for some reason, the clothing company thought we needed some shock horror social issues adverts to help shift its hooded tops.

WHY BAN IT? This student art-like thing is some sort of metaphor for us all being the same on the inside. Even though we're not. Some of us have fatty livers and gastric bands and 2kg of undigested meat. It was banned from wider public display in 1996, after people said seeing stuff like this was "disgusting."

IS IT THAT BAD? We've all got worse things open in several tabs right now thanks to 20 years of being desensitised by the internet, so no. But at the time it was quite a lot to handle, as offal wasn't hugely fashionable in the mid-90s.