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H&M burnt over super tan bikini campaign

H&M burnt over super tan bikini campaign

Published: 20 Sep 2012 09:16 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Sep 2012 09:16 GMT+02:00

Swedish clothing giant H&M has been slammed by Sweden's advertising watchdog over an ad campaign featuring a deeply tanned model that sparked outrage among cancer groups.

“We regret if we have upset some of our customers; we only wanted to show our latest swimwear,” said Håcan Andersson, spokesman for H&M, to Aftonbladet.

The ads, part of an outdoor campaign displayed in Sweden and 43 other countries, showed a very tanned woman modelling H&M bikinis.

“The model in the swimwear campaign is called Isabeli Fontana and she is Brazilian, which means that she has a darker skin tone than most Europeans,” an H&M representative told The Local in May.

But since the campaign was launched, the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman (Reklamombudsmannen – RO) received seven complaints against the campaign, saying that it was sexist and discriminatory, that the model was too thin and that she was sporting an unhealthy tan.

The watchdog ultimately ruled that the campaign was neither sexist nor did it promote an unhealthy and skinny ideal body image.

However, the body did rap H&M for using a model that was too tan.

“It is widely known that an exaggerated exposure of the skin to radiation to the sun is bad and can lead to skin cancer. The advertisement shows an ideal through the model’s extremely tanned skin, which would be harmful to try to achieve,” the watchdog wrote in a statement.

The Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden) in May blasted the advertisements.

"The clothing giant is creating, not least among young people, a beauty ideal that is deadly," the cancer society wrote in an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper at the time.

"Every year, more people die in Sweden of (skin cancer) than in traffic accidents, and the main cause is too much sunning," the group said.

Having been forced to make a formal apology at the time, H&M say they never intended to promote an unhealthy ideal.

However, according to Andersson, the company hasn't had any reactions in any of the other 43 countries where the campaign was launched.

“We will simply try to take this in ahead of the next campaign and next summer,” Andersson told Aftonbladet.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:45 September 20, 2012 by Abe L
Man, these companies must get tired of getting "slammed" or "burnt" over every ad they put out. These watchdogs have to much time and apparently to much money to make a big deal out of things that are not a big deal.

If an ad that doesn't live up to Sweden's utopian politically correct ideals then you get slammed. This isn't that far away from what countries such as China are doing.

The international beauty ideal doesn't only get promoted by H&M and if they want to stay in business then they fly with whatever the international fashion companies come up with.
11:07 September 20, 2012 by rramirez
This whole concept of "advertising police" is moronic and the people behind it are morons. I do not mean that euphamistically, they are literally morons.
11:10 September 20, 2012 by RobinHood
Marketing a product that encourages your customers to give themselves cancer has always been a challenge. Ask the tobacco industry.

I suspect, when it comes to tanning products (including bikinis), we are at the same stage the tobacco industry was back in the fifties. People are just now waking up to the idea that blasting yourself with UV is actually quite a dangerous thing to do, and that encouraging people to make themselves sick is immoral.
11:31 September 20, 2012 by Rishonim
The model is not too thin. Maybe the women complaining are too fat. Not because she is Brazilian should imply that her skin tone is darker than most European. Brazil has 200M people and many has extremely white boring skin just like here in Scandinavia.
11:31 September 20, 2012 by peecee_uk
The image would probably be better suited to advertising Creosote.
11:38 September 20, 2012 by hpunlimited
Ok so models have to have whiter skin. That pretty much rules out using olive skinned or african models in the future then. How you got darker skin is irrelevant, wether it is from tanning, birth or from photoshop. Because a picture is just a picture. It is not surprising considering the childrens movie with a dark skinned figure just got banned too for being racist. I guess anytthing showing dark skin is bad. Wether is is cancerous or racist :-)
12:31 September 20, 2012 by rise
*sigh* What's wrong with a super hot Brazilian? Does everyone has to have the look of a pale corpse like us Scandinavians?

You NEED the sun - regardless of whether your skin from birth happen to be green, black or white! How else are you going to get enough of the vitamin D? Sure you get vitmin D from eating fish, for example, but not nearly enough of the amount you need.

The dangers of lacking enough of vitamin D is not to be underestimated. One of the worst dangers is infertility. Many are the couples in Sweden whom are not able to get children together with each other - almost as many as 15%. And I think it's pretty safe to assume one of the reasons as of why is the lack of sun light - vitamin D - in so great a part of each year.

Oh, and nowadays, what do you NOT get cancer of? :P
14:30 September 20, 2012 by Uncle
Yepp. Models should not be skinny, not brown, not driving cars, not eating hamburgers, not smoking, not holding non ecological food, not using makeup, no skin or hair creams, not talking on cellohones, not drinkning coffee, not be too young, not use botox.

Models shall be saggy, middle aged mustached women, white as a printer page, preferably with pimples and puffed small watery eyes. They should have a messy hair, yellow teeth. Some eczema and a wart would not be too harmful to the selling image.

Then and ONLY then females in Sweden's advertising watchdog will not feel insulted and worried about the public health.
15:36 September 20, 2012 by josiahjohnson
What is crazy is the existance of this advertising ombudsman. Who is this person or group who is wasting their own time and other people's money? It sounds like someone who just likes throwing their own moral superiority around and telling other people what to do.

First, they monitor advertising?! Advertising?! With all the messaging that exists today through allmanner of print communications, electronic communications, movies, etc do these people really feel they will have any impact upon society via their monitoring of advertising? And in this case they responded to 7 complaints? Its just not serious. This watchdog is a silly, frivolous undertaking.

Is the ad sexist? Even if it is, who cares? You can watch American Pie movies on regular TV here. There's massive sexism on TV every day here, but that's free speech. Focusing on this one ad with all the greater sexism that exists is pointless and nothing more than self-indulgance by this watchdog.

Does this ad promote skin cancer? That's a huge stretch but read the Metro in its travel ads or go to any travel agency - with all the sun soaked vacations being promoted let's be serious about who's really culpable about encouraging sun exposure, if anyone's really culpable other than consumers.

This watchdog is not about achieving a better society, its about giving some unexceptional person a platform so they can indulge their own ego.
15:43 September 20, 2012 by Svensksmith
Stop it, Uncle. You're turning me on.
17:41 September 20, 2012 by Migga
@ Rishonim

Why is white skin boring?
18:00 September 20, 2012 by pcgomes
A Brazilian perspective over this:

Isabeli Fontana is indeed a very famous white Brazilian model. I am also a white Brazilian, and my skin color is naturally slightly darker than hers. But I have NEVER got tanned even closer to her tone on H&M's ad, despite being severely exposed to sunlight without sunblock.

The H&M excuse, that she is Brazilian (and supposedly all have such tan), doesn't hold AT ALL. People: just google her name, and check her pictures. She's very white, and could never get such tan naturally. If she's not covered with make-up, or the photo hasn't been photoshoped, then she indeed was exposed to unhealthy cancer-prune tanning sessions.
18:39 September 20, 2012 by Bushyblondehead
Tan looks blotchy.
19:19 September 20, 2012 by Hisingen
Why b****y well advertise at all, then the watchdogs will be out of a job.

They poke their noses in where it isn't wanted more often than not. It makes you think that they are from the advent of Lutheranism in Sweden, when skirts reached the ground, and you could hardly do or think anything. They make Mrs. Whitehouse seem VERY broadminded.
19:56 September 22, 2012 by Gjeebes
Since when do Swedes tan? Its usually a pick between bright white or bright red. And since when is there enough sun in Sweden to get a tan. Wake up you idiots!
15:34 September 24, 2012 by pcgomes
@Gjeebes: why calling other idiots? Not only it's rude, but your comment is flawed. Haven't you ever head of "solariums"? They're all over Sweden...
14:01 September 28, 2012 by SkipEU
It is just a picture and as everyone know most of them are manipulated. I can't believe people complain about everything.
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