Chinese online marketplace Temu has defended itself after the UK’s advertising watchdog claimed it has sexualised and irresponsibly portrayed children in its four display ads and an in-app ad.
According to the official statement by Advertising Standards Authorities, one of the ads featured a young female model, who was believed to be aged between eight and 11, posing with her hand on her hip. The watchdog said her pose was “quite adult for a girl of her age”. She also appeared alongside two other images in the ad that featured mature women modelling clothing intended for adults.
The watchdog said the facial roller, balloon ties and jockstrap displayed in the same ad reflected a lack of explanation and labelling that both the facial roller and balloon ties appeared to be items sexual in nature.
“Further to that the jockstrap, with its accentuated crotch, gave the impression of being sexual, rather than for utility. The collection of items portrayed together added to the impression that the ad was of a sexual nature and by association, therefore, the girl was sexualised,” said the statement.
The watchdog also criticised Temu’s three other ads, two on a chess website and one on a translation site, which showed women wearing tight-fitting outfits that “accentuated their body shapes”, but their faces were not revealed in full, giving the impression of “being sexual”, rather than for utility.
A second image featured a woman wearing a white crop top and only her chest, arms and midriff were shown. The images appeared alongside a jockstrap and items such as a facial massager and balloon ties, which were phallic in shape and appeared sexual in nature.
“Focusing on a person’s body while obscuring or removing their face was likely to be seen as objectifying. As the disembodied images of the women wearing tight and revealing clothing appeared alongside items that were likely to be understood as sexual, we considered the women were presented as stereotypical sexual objects,” said the watchdog.
The watchdog considered that the relevant ads taken in their entirety with the accompanying images of the models, and with no explanation or labelling, contained products that were likely to be seen as sexual in nature. The ads appeared in general media where adult-themed or sexual products were unlikely to be anticipated, and were likely to cause widespread offence.
In response, Whaleco UK t/a Temu said it was a global online platform launched in the UK in 2023. The product descriptions, including the images, displayed on the marketplace were provided by third parties. Sellers were obliged to adhere to Temu’s marketplace policies which prohibited pornographic, obscene or harassing images.
Regarding the silver metallic facial roller, balloon tying tools, padded cycling underwear, jockstrap, red boots and foot massager, Temu said the images shown were the products in their original state unaltered. They were found on the manufacturer’s website and other eCommerce platforms. They believed the images were not sexual or offensive.
In terms of the image of the young girl in the bikini ad, Temu said the image was provided by the seller and violated Temu’s marketing policy. The image had been removed from their Google Ads account and would not be shown again.
Temu added that images of models without a face were not intended to sexually objectify the women. The pictures were there to show customers a clear representation of how the clothing was worn and helped them select goods to purchase.
It also said the images contained no description or language that sexually objectified women. They had not used the women’s features as a way to draw attention to an unrelated product.
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