A Harvey Nichols campaign showing women about to kiss their mirror image has escaped censure after drawing complaints that it was sexually explicit and offensive on religious grounds.

Three posters promoting the new beauty section at the department store's Liverpool branch used the images alongside text reading: "Love Thyself."

harvey nichols

The 'offensive' advert

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 17 complaints, nine that the images were unsuitable to be seen by children because they appeared to show a lesbian kiss, 10 that they were sexually explicit and two that the phrase "love thyself" in combination with the pictures was offensive on religious grounds.

Harvey Nichols pointed out that the ads did not depict a lesbian kiss but rather a woman kissing herself, which was also made clear by the text.

LIKE HUFFPOST UK LIFESTYLE ON FACEBOOK | FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

But the retailer disagreed that a lesbian kiss might be deemed offensive, irresponsible and unsuitable for children, arguing that "the advertising industry should be in the vanguard of those promoting and supporting the equalities espoused by anti-discrimination laws, including those concerning sexual orientation".

It added that it did not believe that an image of the same person, or of two people, on the brink of kissing could be regarded as sexually explicit and therefore capable of causing widespread offence.

Scroll down for more controversial adverts

The ASA found that the campaign was sufficiently clear and unlikely to be widely misunderstood, but noted that a reference to homosexuality in an ad would be unlikely in itself to cause widespread or serious offence or constitute irresponsible advertising.

It said: "Because we considered that it was sufficiently clear that the posters showed one woman about to kiss her mirror image, and because we also considered that they were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence even if interpreted differently, we concluded that the ads were not offensive, irresponsible or unsuitable for untargeted display because they appeared to portray a lesbian kiss."

Quick Poll

Do you think this Harvey Nichols advert is offensive?

VOTE

It added: "We noted that the words 'love thyself' bore some similarity to the Bible verse 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' and understood that, if that association was made, the ads could be seen to distort a religious message for commercial means.

"However, in our view the text was not so strongly linked to the most central tenets of the Christian faith as to be widely interpreted as mocking the sacred elements of that religion. We also noted that 'love thyself' was not a direct biblical quote, and for that reason considered that it was not exclusively associated with Christianity.

"Given the absence of any other imagery or references which could carry religious meaning in the ads, we concluded that, in the context of an ad promoting a store's beauty department, the phrase 'love thyself', combined with the images of a woman about to kiss her mirror image, was not offensive on religious grounds."

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Levis.

  • Saatchi and Saatchi's campaign for The Conservative Party ahead of the 1979 general election.

  • Durex.

  • Sisley fashion brand.

  • Sean John's Unforgivable Woman fragrance.

  • Linford Christie stars in Kleenex's tissue advert.

  • Wonderbra's infamous advert.

  • Lynx.

  • BMW.

  • BaF's anti-domestic violence ad.

  • Red Tape menswear fashion brand.

  • Controversial French anti-smoking advert,

  • MacDonald's.

  • QSOL service provider.

  • NSPCC

  • A German MacDonald's advert.

  • Heinz.

  • Cadbury's.

  • Miquita Oliver in Women's Aid advert.

  • Advert for Chicolate chocolate substitute.

  • Skin Burn, anti-smoking ad

  • Barnardo's.

  • Tipalet cigarette advert.

  • Benetton

  • TG4 television program entitled 'Paisean Faisean'.

  • Courage beer.

  • Budweiser.

  • Barcardi rum.

  • Amnesty International

  • Skyy alcoholic drink.

  • Amnesty International

  • Amnesty International

  • Anti binge-drinking advert

  • Van Heusen

  • BMW

  • Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter

  • Government anti-drug driving advert

  • Anti-abortion advert

  • Advert against verbal abuse

  • Fabrica

  • Benson & Hedges

  • American Apparel

  • Amnesty International

  • Post-It