The smiling and unsmiling version of the Ella Bache billboards.

The smiling and unsmiling version of the Ella Bache billboards.

An image from an Ella Bache advertising campaign has been rejected by the Outdoor Media Advertising (OMA) Board because the facial expressions of three naked female models were deemed “too arousing”.

The OMA rejected one version of two almost identical ads for the skincare brand because the models, who were using their hands to cover their naked bodies, had serious facial expressions that were interpreted as “too sexualised”. A version where the three models were smiling was accepted.

Ella Bache was also asked to cover one woman’s chest by increasing the size of their logo.

In a letter sent to Ella Bache the OMA said, “we considered that while the nudity was relevant to the product, the serious facial expressions did increase the sexual overtones of the image... We have said that the alternative images where the girls are smiling are acceptable as it is less sexualised and is relevant to the product."

Ella Bache creative director Faie Davis described the decision as  “bizarre”.  

"We are seeing self-appointed regulators making sexual judgements about facial expressions, which borders on the laughable. This sort of thinking displays why Australian advertising is falling behind the rest of the world, as creativity is being squeezed out by political correctness”, said Davis.  

The chief executive of the OMA, Charmaine Moldrich, defended the decision and told Fairfax, “I know its nuanced and subtle but there is a difference between a woman who is empowered, and happy to be here and a woman who is being objectified. It’s our job to make that make that call.”

“We have a code of ethics that is focused on serving the community and we take that commitment seriously. Billboards can’t be switched off - we are on 24 hours a day.” She said.

Despite reports the image has not been “banned”. Ella Bache have been advised that it would most likely breach the AANA Code to go ahead with the unedited campaign.