Why women are being dropped from Pakistani ads

After protests, one fashion company replaces models with sailboats and says 'women are not to be flaunted.'

By Aimee Picchi Feb 21, 2013 3:10PM

A laborer adjusts a billboard advertisement in Karachi's business district (Akhtar Soomro/Newscom/Reuters)Some Pakistani fashion houses are avoiding using women in their advertisements after campaigners last year blacked out images of models on billboards.

It might be hard for Americans to picture how a fashion company can demonstrate the beauty of its clothing without models, but one Pakistani line says it's using sailboats to get the message across, according to the U.K.'s Telegraph.

How? The vessels' sails are made from their new "lawn prints," or lightweight fabrics worn in summer. Gusts of wind puff out the sails, with their colorful patterns glinting under a blue sky. 

"We feel that women are not to be flaunted across the city on billboards," Nadir Khan, customer relations manager of J Lawn, told the Telegraph.

The shift illustrates the challenges for advertisers of decoding what's acceptable in different countries. A tame image in one country might be considered taboo in another. 

Advertisers have often failed to understand the unique issues of marketing to Muslim consumers, according to The New York Times. Multinational companies, eager to appeal to the world's 1.57 billion Muslims, are tailoring their campaigns to avoid any cultural blunders. And American companies are also eager to sell fashion to U.S. Muslims.

According to the Telegraph, several other companies have dropped models from their advertisements, although some continue to use them in brochures. A 2011 Gallup survey found that almost two-thirds of Pakistanis objected to billboards with women, the story adds.


But cultural issues aren't only problems in Muslim-targeted advertising. 

Translation is often an issue for U.S. companies trying to break into other cultures. The "Got Milk?" campaign in Mexico, for instance, meant "Are you lactating?" That's probably not the message the milk industry wanted to get across.

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