Proof that one lone complaint can kick up a shitstorm if it's done right is this story from Sweden. Sara who blogs at Hedgehog in a storm opened a magazine the other day to find a L'Oreal ad which sent "pedophile vibes", she reacted quite strongly to. She reported the ad to ERK, the Ethical Advertising watchdog of Sweden, and the Market Ethic advisors, but she didn't stop there. Sara who works as a children ombudsman also sent off press releases, and pretty soon she was contacted by SVT local news....
So far in the story, woman from target market 1, L'Oreal 0.
The ad turned Sara off because the woman in the picture looks a lot like a prepubescent girl, considering the absence of any womanly curves, the child-like white panties and the size of the mans hand in relation to her belly. As if a grown man was cuddling a twelve-year old.
Turns out that the model is a grown woman, it's the strange cropping that has removed her hip curve and the top part of her ribs, where the underside of her breasts were clearly shown. They cropped the breasts out as not to offend, we assume...... In liberal Sweden? It's not like we haven't seen breasts before. Hell, we're the ones who first showed nipples in movies that weren't blue. ;)
On the local news show Tvärsnytt L'Oreal apologized for running the ad, and promised to never run it again. They also explained that the woman may have looked younger than she was because they had "retouched the breasts away from the image". (their words)
After the show, L'Oreal called Sara more than six times until they finally got a hold of her. When they reached her they apologized over the phone to her, and asked many questions: "Did Sara report this ad as a private citizen, or as a representative of the Children's Ombudsman?" "Did Sara contact the media, or did the media contact Sara?" "What is a children's ombudsman and are they common?" (Why they didn't just look that one up in the dictionary is beyond me) "Had Sara reported any other ads before?". Concerned with damage control clearly, they could just have looked at image and try and understand where Sara is coming from instead of grilling her on her job, her ad omplaining habits etc.
This is why I give L'Oreal 0 points, a straight up apology without any half assed explanations about retouching (which is clearly untrue, as the image is cropped not retouched but perhaps L'Oreals representative doesn't know the difference), and without asking Sara if she was doing this as a child ombudsman would have been the way to go. Sara signed her complaints with her name, it was obviously not something that the childrens ombudsman was doing in any official way. The rather short sighted handling of the situation made L'Oreal look a worse.
The little storm caused by hedgehog in a storm continued to heavy-weight Swedish ad and media blogs Researcher.se and Media Culpa (in English), which has "before and after" images of said ad, showing the missing breasts.