Press-and-play bra ad is 'most sexist yet'

Pretty Polly, the lingerie label that makes a virtue of targeting women rather than men, will tomorrow unveil what leading feminists describe as the most "sexist" advert yet.

Pretty Polly, the lingerie label that makes a virtue of targeting women rather than men, will tomorrow unveil what leading feminists describe as the most "sexist" advert yet.

Situated in bus shelters, the larger-than-lifesize photograph of a model in slinky red underwear, will feature a button placed precipitously close to her breasts inviting passers-by to press it. When they do, the model begins to talk, explaining the benefits of her "Baroque" bra and where it can be bought.

News of the ad comes after a week in which Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, condemned organisers of the British International Motor Show for using scantily clad women to promote it. She dismissed a publicity poster as "pathetic", "old-fashioned" and "a 1950s cliché".

The Pretty Polly poster, part of the brand's £1m pre-Christmas sales push, is being hailed by its creators, London-based agency Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy (MCBD), as a breakthrough in "interactive" advertising. Industry observers say it signals a future world ­ like that forecast in the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report ­ where adverts will be able to "identify" passers-by and address them by name.

But feminists remain unconvinced. Beatrix Campbell, currently visiting professor in women's studies at Newcastle University, said it was merely the latest product of the "Loaded culture" promoted by "unreconstructed, oafish, Chris Evans-type blokes".

"The Pretty Polly ad is about something women wear, but it is produced for men's pleasure. It says: 'Here you are, you can press the button and do what you like with her.' As soon as advertisers are given the opportunity to go back to the bad old days, they do." Dismissing what she called the "fake irony" of "lads' magazines", she said: "Everybody knows all it's about is these gross, farting, boozing men behaving badly."

Natasha Walter, the Independent columnist and author of The New Feminism, said the new poster, like the Motor Show ads before it, was symptomatic of the continuing inequalities between men and women in modern Britain. "The fact that things haven't really changed in the advertising industry is so linked to the continuing disempowerment of women throughout society."

Echoing Professor Campbell's view, she added: "It's not ironic at all. Where's the irony? It's all about people getting off on half-dressed women."

Trevor Beattie, the ad wunderkind responsible for the celebrated "Hello Boys!" Wonderbra posters featuring supermodel Eva Herzigova, has a more prosaic concern: he finds the advert boring.

"It's not sexist, it's just mundane," he said. "The ads are both examples of the same thing: they are utterly uninspired. If one or two prominent people didn't pick up on these adverts and complain about them, they are so bland that no one else would even notice them."

Defending the Pretty Polly poster, managing director Sue Clague said: "You've got to take it as a piece of fun. Women wear underwear to feel nice and look nice. The sexiness in the picture is what I would call a feminine sexiness. The campaign is targeted at women, but we want to make it fun ­ and we are not anti-men."

Ms Clague, whose company recently produced the Bumboost ­ "for the perfect, pert rounded bottom you've always dreamed of" ­ added: "Underwear advertising is a very overcrowded market, and you have to take some risks to get noticed."

As for the view from the Loaded lads themselves, Keith Kendrick, the magazine's outgoing editor, said: "Why is it OK for women to have a pop at men, but men can't do the same? Women know men have a sense of humour, and we assume they do too."

Who will dare push PP and be labelled 'P for pathetic'?

By Peter York

"And will you tweak the nipple, Veronica?"

How exactly will people use the new "interactive" Pretty Polly "Baroque" bra poster campaign that appears this week at a bus shelter near you? The interactivity's all about a strategically placed button which says "Press for lift". When you do she starts to talk, pitching the bra's incomparable benefits. The button isn't really on the nipple ­ it's in the middle, north of the navel. But who'll press first ­ consumer information seekers or 12-year-old boys? And in what state of mind?

Just imagine being the single adult man in the bus shelter with, say, eight women around you. Would you press and be labelled "P for pathetic"? The whole thing's obviously been designed by a Situationist as an art installation. It certainly puts Patricia Hewitt in a new light. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry ­ unlike her predecessor she doesn't use the title President ­ objected strenuously to the "sexist" poster for the Motor Show featuring yet another woman in a bra and saying "the other way to your man's heart is down the M6". She said it was "old-fashioned ­ confirming old stereotypes". The stereotype in question was of cars as boys' toys when modern girls were just as keen. Anyway she got a bollocking all round, from the trad Tory view that this was just Labour killjoys spoiling it for everyone, through to the sophisticated girlies on the women's pages who said she clearly didn't understand how thoroughly post-feminist and empowering, ironic and ambiguous modern ladies' underwear advertising could be. Anyway, the offending poster was designed by a woman.

Just remember, when you find yourself up close to Pretty Polly's talking midriff, that there's an undisclosed extra bit of tech in the kit. True to the conceptual art installation tradition there's a hidden camera in every poster. Here's looking at you, boys.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss