Strip club hits back at Ad Standards ruling on mobile billboards: “We have the right to advertise our business like anyone else”

Article by Kirsten Robb /
Smart Company /
May 07, 2015 /
Click here to view original /

A Melbourne table-top dancing club has hit back at a complaint made about its mobile billboard advertising featuring women in lingerie, arguing it is being “judged” and “discriminated” against because of the nature of its business.

The viewer objection to the ad, filed to the Advertising Standards Board, follows a recent string of complaints about gratuitous nudity lodged with the ad watchdog.

The Melbourne complainant took issue with a mobile billboard attached to a truck by Dandenong strip club Club Shoop, which featured a picture of two girls in lingerie standing up and leaning on each other.

The complainer said the board was driven around Melbourne during the school holidays along busy roads and stopping along the roads near shopping centres.

“These billboards on the truck are advertising female strippers in their club and have pictures of inappropriate females,” said the complainant.

“Magazines are hidden in shops away from the public view and this truck with the billboards is displayed for everyone to view including children. It’s not appropriate for the areas to see this. It should be kept in front of their venue.”

In response to the complaint, Club Shoop said its trucks stick to main roads, freeways and highways where possible, although its drivers occasionally “have to pull over to take a phone call (which is a legal requirement by law), lunch breaks, use local amenities and to refuel.”

“I also note that we follow all Vic Roads and Local Council rules that stipulate we cannot stop unless for these reasons,” said Club Shoop in its response.

The club said it avoided schools during student hours, but said “traffic flow on those main roads can interfere with timing” in those areas.

“We are an established family-owned business for nearly 23 years and over this period we have advertised our business using our billboard advertising trucks all over the south eastern suburbs daily,” said Club Shoop.

“We have the right to advertise our business like any one else and they should not judge or discriminate against us for the nature of our business.”

“The girls on the advertisement are wearing no less and no more inappropriate than what you would find in current media advertising and television programming,” the strip club added.

But the Ad Standards Board found that the image of a woman in an “open shirt has very large breasts”, which revealed a significant amount of cleavage to the point of nearly exposing her whole breast.

“The board considered the overall tone of the advertisement and specifically some of the features such as the level of exposed breast, the strap of a bra slipping down and the wide spread legs of one of the models and considered that this did amount to an image that was very sexualised and that the display of such an image on an outdoor mobile billboard did not treat the issue of sex and sexuality with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience,” said the ad watchdog, upholding the viewer’s complaint.

But Club Shoop hit back at the ruling, saying it was “disappointed” with the board’s decision “considering that excess cleavage is everywhere in the media”.

“But as the ruling has been made we have decided that due to the high cost of fixing the existing image, the current advertising billboard media was removed from our trucks this morning and replaced with previously approved media,” added the company.

Advertising expert and Melbourne University senior lecturer Dr Lauren Rosewarne told SmartCompany the use of mobile billboards attached to cars is popular with strip clubs as a way to subvert council laws against advertising.

“The reason they tie it to a car is because it exposes a lot of people to it in areas they’d never legally be allowed to erect a billboard with that content,” says Rosewarne.

While Rosewarne says it makes more sense for a strip club to use women in lingerie to promote its brand than some other companies that use highly sexual advertising, she says the argument that Club Shoop should be able to advertise “like anyone else” does not stand up.

“There are so many restrictions in the sex industry when it comes to advertising. So despite what this company has said, the sex industry does not have the opportunity to advertise like any other business,” she says.

“This complaint just highlights that we are a culture not comfortable with sex,” she adds.