Department store Harvey Nichols put out an advertisement campaign that has garnered controversy for depicting what looks like two women kissing. Three posters were displayed in the Liverpool store with the phrase “Love Thyself” with an image of a woman kissing herself in a mirror-like image.
Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) reported that they received complaints that the images were inappropriate and shouldn’t be seen by children because they show a lesbian kiss, were sexually explicit and, the phrase “love thyself” was offensive on religious grounds.
In response, Harvey Nichols argued that the ad wasn’t depicting a lesbian kiss, but the notion of loving yourself, clearly demonstrated by the fact that the two women in the ad were the same person.
The department store also stated that it would be discriminatory if the ad were to be banned even if it did have a homosexual undertone, stating, “several mainstream prime-time television programs now incorporated both heterosexual and homosexual characters into their storylines,” and that the advertising industry should be similarly promoting equality.
As for the religious offense complaints which pointed to the similarities between “Love Thyself” and the Bible verse “thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself,” Harvey Nichols said that the use of Old English just sounded better and more assertive than “Love Yourself.”
ASA ultimately agreed with the department chain. They said that the ad campaign’s message was clear, and although they saw the similarities between the slogan and Bible verse, there was no direct offense.
ASA decided to take no further action and the ads are still up and running.