Jun 1, 2009

FOI reveals DJs kids were supposed to be ‘adult and sexy’

David Jones have been accused of using ads that intentionally sexualised children as young as 10. But it seems DJs and Saatchi & Saatchi have found a fall guy.

Sophie Black

Crikey editor

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws appear to support claims by The Australia Institute that retailer David Jones used advertisements that intentionally sexualised children as young as 10, according to the Director of advocacy group Kids Free 2B Kids Julie Gale. The documents reveal a brief outlining that the girls, aged 10 and 12, should be portrayed as “slightly more adult and sexy”. But it looks like David Jones and Saatchi & Saatchi have found a fall guy, citing a "freelance photographer" as the author of the memo. The FoI request was made by Gale to the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG), which regulates the employment of child models. Gale initially submitted her FOI request in May last year after the controversy surrounding the 2006 release of The Australia Institute's “Corporate paedophilia -- sexualising children by advertising and marketing” report which led to David Jones suing the institute and its then director Clive Hamilton. The girls appeared in an Alison Ashley advertisement created by the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi for David Jones:

According to Gale, "... it also interested me that the lawsuit was dropped just before the senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment." The Australia Institute’s accompanying media release to the study back in 2006 stated:
Children are increasingly being portrayed in clothing and posed in ways designed to draw attention to adult sexual features that they do not yet possess ... Children are being er-ticised in the interests of the corporate bottom line. It is particularly disturbing that this exploitation of young children appears to be becoming accepted as mainstream. Major retail chains such as David Jones and Myer have jumped on the bandwagon…
David Jones was the only company to pursue legal action under the Trades Practices Act. In a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, David Jones said it had suffered “loss or damage” as a result of the actions of the institute and Dr Hamilton. The statement said: “David Jones does not knowingly cause the publication of material which can be used by paedophiles for their s-xual gratification.” David Jones dropped the legal action in May 2008. Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids lodged a request for all documents relating to advertising involving children by David Jones in the three months leading up to the Corporate Pedophilia report. On July 1st 2008 OCG provided Gale with 225 documents but withheld nine. Gale told Crikey she was "... surprised to learn that the OCG had made this decision after representations from lawyers acting on behalf of Saatchi & Saatchi -- the agency responsible for DJ's advertising campaigns." "The efforts made by Saatchi & Saatchi to prevent public access to certain documents intensified my curiosity," says Gale. " I made a request to see the nine documents." After an internal review -- this was refused. Gale then went to the NSW Ombudsman who redetermined that certain information be released to her. Kerry Boland of the OCG wrote to Gale on the 1st April:

Following a written suggestion from the NSW Ombudsman, I have redetermined your application and concluded that some phrases in those pages are not exempt under clauses 7(1)(b), 7(1)(c) or 13(a) of Schedule 1 in the FoI Act.

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4 thoughts on “FOI reveals DJs kids were supposed to be ‘adult and sexy’

  1. jchercelf

    When there are no fashion models on cat-walks or in ads these days who could afford to buy or who look realistic in the fashion displayed – it reinforces the ridiculous mistake the fashion houses are making. Mid-teens is just that – a time to learn how to live and cope with school – the future and all the pressures they are under. Can’t you afford a proper model these days fashion houses?

  2. John Bennetts

    Julie Gale, how right you are to persist!

    It is not just DJ’s, but the fashion industry that is seen to have crossed the line. Catwalk models, ad agencies, photographers, magazines – especially teen mags – and retailers have all cooperated in this type of sleaze for too long. They all own their respective roles in this operation.

    It’s not just the work of a rogue photographer. There are simply too many steps along the way for such ads to be contemplated, planned, staged, staffed, shot , approved and released.

  3. Robert Garnett

    Another very interesting aspect of this saga is how the FOI laws were once again subverted by a government department to protect commercial interests. The “commercial in confidence” bell rings with amazing frequency. I am heartily sick of hearing how highly paid commercial lawyers are undermining the publics’ right to know, simply to protect the profits and reputations of big companies. Cannot our politicians and their servants ever see any issue other than through the prism of the commercial interests from those in the big end of town.

    This latest episode somply underscores the point that our companies, politicians and senior public servants and their lawyers think that any behaviour is OK as long as someone is making a buck!

  4. Ungulate

    Top work Julie!

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