Is This Lane Bryant Ad With Ashley Graham and Other Curvy Models Too Much for TV?

Brand says the spot was rejected

In a scandal that may spark déjà vu among observers with a long memory, retailer Lane Bryant is accusing TV networks ABC and NBC of refusing to air a body-positive lingerie ad featuring plus-size models. 

"This Body," created by MDC-owned Laird+Partners, features Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Ashley Graham alongside industry colleagues Precious Lee, Tara Lynn, Denise Bidot and Georgia Pratt, wearing little or no clothing while boxing, breastfeeding and striking poses, delivering confident lines about their curvy bodies. 

Bryant claims the networks rejected the commercial outright. ABC declined to comment to People, and NBC said it simply asked for minor edits as part of a routine review. Lane Bryant denies the latter, and also refuses to make any changes to the creative. 

"We need to do a better job of representing the body," Brian Beitler, CMO of Lane Bryant, said during a South by Southwest panel that AdFreak attended on Sunday. "Our bodies are about what we do and it's not about how we look. … We don't believe that [body positivity] is just a women's issue, it's a human issue."

It's not the company's first run-in with controversy around its TV marketing. In 2010, the company alleged that ABC and Fox were unfairly restricting the number of times it could air another lingerie ad, also featuring Graham, while ceding passage to similar spots featuring thinner Victoria's Secret models. ("Requested edits" aside, both of Lane Bryant's ads are relatively tame, less about seduction than self-worth, especially compared to other lingerie spots considered too racy for American TV.) 

Last year, Lane Bryant deliberately took aim at Victoria's Secret's messaging with its "I'm No Angel" campaign, also featuring Graham, to the delight of online audiences.

Whether Lane Bryant is an innocent victim here, or deliberately staging a flap for publicity, doesn't really matter. The biases about body type and size that it challenges are already implicit in the vast majority of pop culture. As a relatively loud voice—the brand has more than 700 stores—battling an unbalanced status quo, it deserves all the attention it's getting, especially when the cause it's championing is so personal, and important, to so many.

CREDITS

Client: Lane Bryant

Chief Executive Officer: Linda Heasley

Chief Marketing Officer: Brian Beitler

Assistant Vice President, Marketing: Kathy Quickert

Senior Marketing Manager: Heather McGarry

Digital Director: Richard Ledger

Senior Copy Manager: Chris Frey

Associate Creative Director: Nick Coakley

Vice President, Creative: Mindy Torrey

Vice President, Strategy: Vicki Shamion

Agency: Laird + Partners

Executive Creative Director, Partner: Hans Dorsinville

Senior Art Director: Georgina Rex

Editorial Director: Ranjani Gopalarathinam

Account Supervisor: Lauren Levine

Head of Digital Strategy: Mike Karam

Senior Producer: Alexandra Lunn

Production Associate: Caitlin Phelps

Senior Vice President, Global Print Production: Patrick Kinsella,