Pamela Anderson TV Ad Too 'Degrading' for UK, but What About US?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 06, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A new Pamela Anderson TV ad has been banned in Britain for being "sexist and degrading to women," reports the New York Daily News.

Watchdog group the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) pulled the "Baywatch" celebrity's television spot for Australian web-hosting service Crazy Domains, finding the ad was "likely to cause serious offense to some viewers."

But that's in the UK. Could the same thing happen in America?

The TV ad shows Pamela Anderson at a business meeting. Soon, we enter a male colleague's dreamscape, in which he fantasizes about Anderson and a co-worker in gold bikinis writhing and splashing cream over each other.

The problem was that he "viewed his female colleagues as sexual objects to be lusted after," said the UK's ASA.

"Because of that," the ASA concluded, "we considered the ad was likely to cause serious offense to some viewers on the basis that it was sexist and degrading to women."

Obscene, Indecent and Profane Ads

In the United States, there are federal laws that prohibit or limit obscene, indecent or profane language in TV ads.

Obscene ads are a complete no-no. The test for obscenity involves three pretty specific factors. Generally, an ad is obscene if it:

  1. Appeals to the prurient interest,
  2. Describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and
  3. Lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

From Axe to beer ads, America has a special relationship with sexist and degrading ads.

Considering Carl's Jr.'s ad campaigns (remember the infamous Paris Hilton car-washing ad?), America would likely be more OK with Pamela Anderson's male fantasy dream sequence ad than the Brits.

Still, there are indecency laws that can kick in, especially when an ad depicts or describes sexual or "excretory organs" (eww) or activities in a very offensive way.

To shield children from such commercials, U.S. indecency laws would likely only let the Pammycakes ad air between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (That's why when you have the TV on really late at night, the ads take an awkward turn for "900" numbers and poles...)

Profanity can also be a factor. And while it doesn't seem like the Pamela Anderson ad dropped any "F-bombs," it's worth noting that profane speech, like indecency, can only be shown between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. as well.

Making a Complaint

The ASA banned Anderson's commercial from the UK airwaves after four viewers complained about its offensive content.

Don't worry, you can complain about offensive ads right here in the ol' US of A, too. In fact, the FCC says it receives numerous complaints from consumers about commercials. (Go USA?)

You can complain online or call (888) CALL-FCC.

On a side note, if we're going after degrading commercials, what about all the daytime ads for household products that assume women are the only ones at home, cleaning?...

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