Been there, done that, worn the bra

Leslie Ash is the new face of Playtex. Publicity stunt or positive step for older women?

Mention bra advertising and most people will conjure up the image of Eva Herzigova and the traffic-stopping "Hello Boys!" billboard campaign. They are unlikely to think of Leslie Ash, the former star of the sitcom Men Behaving Badly, whose personal life has been raked over by the tabloids in recent months. Yet at 44, and recovering from a traumatic illness, Ash has been selected as the new face of bra-maker Playtex.

Is this merely a publicity stunt? Or is it a more positive sign that a leading brand is willing to place its future in the hands, or in this case the cleavage, of a woman in her forties, who has experienced life's ups and downs? In which case Playtex has come a long way since Lancôme dropped Isabella Rossellini on the stroke of 40 for being too old, although Lancôme denied it.

Ash is not just any 44-year-old. She is a celebrity whose private life has been endlessly discussed in the popular press since she was admitted to hospital this year with a collapsed lung and a broken rib, which she says resulted from a bout of "energetic sex" with her husband, the ex-footballer and club owner Lee Chapman. To make matters worse, she then contracted the hospital bug MSSA.

But the rumour mill refused to accept Ash's own account of her injuries. Last month, the actress appeared in a joint interview with Chapman on ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald to deny once and for all widely reported speculation that her injuries were in fact the result of domestic violence.

"Playtex believes that Leslie Ash is perfect for the 'Just My Style' campaign because she is a real woman," says Therese Gilligan, marketing manager for the brand. "On the one hand, she is an aspirational, beautiful and confident celebrity, with a hugely successful acting career. On the other hand, as a mum who has been through difficult times, she is very accessible and easy for women across the UK to identify with."

Ash herself is upbeat. "I chose this range because it is so right for a woman like me who wants to look good and feel really feminine. I love the way I look in these pictures - sexy and confident."

Jasmine Montgomery, the strategic director of branding agency FutureBrand and an expert on marketing to women, believes that the choice of Ash as a role model is a welcome step in the right direction. "Any time a fashion brand, in particular a lingerie brand, decides to use someone in their forties, that's a positive move because it goes against the grain of so many brands that have invested in youth," she said.

She compares the Playtex campaign with the recent adverts for Body Shop and Dove bath products, featuring real women of all shapes and sizes. "There's a massive opportunity out there for brands to promote women's self-esteem. Most brands actually damage women's self-esteem because they understand that's a way to drive purchasing behaviour."

Montgomery warns, however, that using Ash could backfire if women's perceptions of her as a role model are coloured by what they have read in the press. "The positive aspect could be mitigated by some of the circumstances surrounding Leslie Ash, if she is seen as someone who is low in self-esteem. If she's in a place in her life where she's picking herself up, that bodes well - to have someone who is admittedly flawed, who has been very public about their troubles, is a good thing. But it depends on Leslie's next year and whether their brand is about empowerment and self-esteem or whether it's just a gimmick."

Society, as much as advertisers and their clients, is to blame for the industry's preference for nubile female models in their teens and twenties, says Montgomery. "The public seem to be clamouring for more real women, and yet when forward-thinking clients present them with real women, they are turned off. We have been thoroughly brainwashed."

Whether or not Ash succeeds in boosting Playtex's profile, the campaign could provide a valuable lesson for the advertising industry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable