H&M faces backlash over ad accused of sexualising children

The ad, featuring two primary school-age girls wearing grey-hued pinafore dresses, sparked criticism for its tagline encouraging them to ‘Make those heads turn in H&M's Back to School fashion.’

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Courtesy: X

Fashion giant H&M is under scrutiny after being accused of sexualising young children in an advertisement, leading to a public outcry and subsequent withdrawal of the controversial campaign in Australia. The ad, featuring two primary school-age girls wearing grey-hued pinafore dresses, sparked criticism for its tagline encouraging them to ‘Make those heads turn in H&M's Back to School fashion.’

The advertisement, circulating widely on the internet, depicts two young girls in grey pinafore dresses, accompanied by the controversial tagline. The visual elements, combined with the suggestive slogan, drew immediate attention and criticism.

The tagline, "Make those heads turn in H&M's Back to School fashion," raised concerns about the inappropriate emphasis on the appearance of young schoolgirls. Critics argued that such messaging was inappropriate for children, particularly as it could contribute to societal pressures related to appearance.

Criticism and social media uproar

Australian author Melinda Tankard Reist was among the first to criticize the ad, questioning the intention behind encouraging young girls to "turn heads" with their appearance. She emphasized that schoolgirls generally prefer to focus on learning and having fun without drawing undue attention to their looks.

The criticism gained momentum on social media, with users expressing strong opinions against the ad. The uproar prompted H&M to withdraw the campaign and issue a public apology.

H&M's Response

In response to the backlash, H&M issued an apology and promptly removed the controversial ad. The fashion retailer acknowledged the offense caused and committed to reviewing its campaign presentation methods in the future.

H&M's statement indicated a willingness to reconsider how future campaigns are presented, signaling a recognition of the need for sensitivity when addressing topics related to young children.

Similar Incidents in the Industry

This incident brings to mind a similar controversy involving Chinese-owned online marketplace Temu in 2023. The marketplace faced criticism for an advertisement allegedly sexualising young children, leading to concerns about age-appropriate content in marketing.