Two ads for the airline Ryanair have been banned in the UK, on the grounds that their pictures of Ryanair employees in their underwear are offensive. Given how much worse shit exists out there, though, the decision is a little surprising.
According to the BBC, 17 people complained to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the newspaper ads (one is at left). The airline said the photos were taken from its charity calendar (cover above), which employees volunteered to be photographed for. They also made the argument that immediately leapt to my mind, which was, "meh, I've seen worse." Specifically, Ryanair argued that "because similar images of women and men often featured in the same media, the ads could not be deemed offensive or unsuitable for public display." The ASA wasn't buying it — in their decision, they wrote,
We [...] noted the women, featured in ads (a) and (b), were wearing underwear and looking directly at the reader and considered that, although the images were not overtly sexual in content, the appearance, stance and gaze of the women, particular the one in ad (a), who was shown pulling her pants slightly down, were likely to be seen as sexually suggestive. We also considered that most readers would interpret these images, in conjunction with the text "RED HOT FARES & CREW!!!" and the names of the women, as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour.
Fair enough, but since the ladies in the ads were apparently enthusiastic about appearing, it's hard to get too mad. Using sexy images to sell products is an old trick, and while far from my favorite, it's not nearly as bad as, say, implying that women are evil harpies or men are drooling ineffectual children. To my mind, the real problem with Ryanair's campaign is its lack of balance. Where are the male crew members? What these ads really need are some thighlights.