In August, a few UK magazines ran the 'Oh Lola! advert which featured Dakota Fanning holding a bottle of Marc Jacob's 'Oh Lola' perfume in what 'some' believed to be a sexually provocative pose. 'Some' in this context happened to be four people who complained to the Advertising Standards Agency. Despite four not being a significant number, the Agency acted swiftly and issued a ban to all UK advertisers not to run the advert.
Unsurprisingly, Coty UK, the makers of the perfume challenged the decision, claiming that the image was "similar to many other edgy images in those magazines." Of course, how 'edgy' is defined is open to interpretation, and I'm sure there are equal numbers of people who do not think it is 'inappropriate' compared to those that do, if the blog responses on the various newspapers that have covered this story is anything to go by.
However, strip away the issue and let's focus on what happened.
The photographer, advertiser and relevant entourage were willing to shoot and create such an image.
The perfume manufacturer was willing to agree on such an image.
The publishing houses were willing to print such an image. Responding to the ASA, the Sunday Times said: "Their publication was marketed to adults with an interest in cutting edge fashion and that any sexual connotations that may have been associated with the ad would be reduced because of that target audience."
All of the companies involved have corporate responsibility departments, Codes of Conduct, annual CSR statements and personnel, who no doubt, are committed to improving their company's CSR performance.
However, what we have here is a case of business and its responsibility to respect human rights, and specifically the rights of the child, in action.
Had any of the companies involved decided to consider and assess any potential harmful impacts arising from the selected photo image, it's probable that they would have opted to select the other photo of Dakota Fanning sporting the perfume bottle by her cheek. And, in light of the ASA's assessment findings, it's unlikely they would have banned that particular image.
Following the six year mandate of the former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie, many companies now openly acknowledge that they have a responsibility to respect human rights, and recognize the importance of assessing the human rights impacts of their existing and planned activities.
Thankfully, the Children's Rights and Business Principles, a joint UNICEF, UN Global Compact and Save the Children initiative will arrive next year on the back of the UN Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework and the Guiding Principles for its implementation.
Going forward, companies will have a clear marker on what society expects them to do in relation to children's rights, and how they can ensure their activities do not adversely harm the rights of the child, intentionally or unintentionally.
*Universal Children's Day is celebrated on 20th November, every year. The date marks the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) by the UN General Assembly.
By Désirée Abrahams