A screengrab of the controversial Jet Stores advert.
Johannesburg - Some social media users, including celebrities, have expressed outrage at a Jet Stores advert they accuse of “sexualising” infants, while other users believe it is welcome humour.

The clothing company’s television advert released late last month shows two babies commenting on the physical appearance of a well-built, shirtless man.

The man, who clearly spends hours in the gym, is holding two girl infants.

One infant says “This man is hot” while the other baby responds “I should get his number”.

One of the comments that seems to rile opponents of the Jet baby clothes advert is when one infant says: “He made me forget I am a lesbian for two minutes.”

Media personality Pearl Modiadie tweeted: “Am I the only one who finds this Jet ad inappropriate?”

Some social media users were divided in their response, with some offended and others finding nothing wrong with it.

“Advertisers have been using women’s sexiness to sell anything from cars to insurance,” said fashion designer Thula Sindi in response to Modiadie’s tweet.

“I see a responsible dad... he knows where to shop for less for his kids,” @Mtho_Ka_jacket added.

Following Modiadie’s comment, a concerned parent, Mandulo Mandulo, took to Facebook and said she found the advert offensive in a country where infants were often raped, and planned to lay a formal complaint.

She said: “In a country where infants are raped, why do they find it appropriate to sexualise babies? In a country where we need to see more fathers playing their role, why do they find it appropriate to make this man ‘hot’ instead of just being a father? I could go on and on. I will formally complain about this advert and I hope other parents do, too.”

In response to Mandulo’s complaint, a Jet Stores statement said: “As a company, Jet is against infants being raped, or sexualising of children in any form.

“We do take all our customers’ feedback seriously and we would like to take this opportunity to address your concerns. It must be noted that this advert is a sequel to a previous ad run in April this year.”

He said the comments Mandulo referred to were not meant to be by the babies.

“They are real comments made by real women on Jet’s Facebook page during the previous campaign, and were in no way aimed at sexualising the babies or causing offence,” the company said.

Jet Stores, which is part of the Edcon Group, underlined that the campaign was intended to be light-hearted.

“We do see fathers being actively involved in the upbringing of their children as positive, and we aim to support all parents,” the company said.

Some viewers have publicly backed the advert.

Xolo Ntuli commented on the Jet Stores Facebook page: “This guy is so hottttt ou... this is officially the best ad in history!!! My fav by far.”

While another viewer, Becky Dee, said: “This ad just made me want a baby so I can have this nanny.”

Edcon said in a statement it was aware of the mixed reactions to the advert and was looking into them.

“This issue is receiving attention from the highest level of Jet management, and is being reviewed urgently with key stakeholders to assess the level and nature of the concerns.

“Once this review has been concluded, we will be in a position to make a decision on the next steps. Whatever the decision, our imperative will be to provide moms with quality products at great prices but also give them a moment of entertainment and support, too,” Edcon noted.

“We would like to offer a sincere apology if the nature of the campaign has caused any offence. We will respond appropriately,” it said.

Leon Grobler, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa’s manager of dispute resolution, said: “The organisation is a reactive organisation. We are not permitted to intervene or express any view on the commercial until and unless someone has lodged an objection. Broadcasters generally apply their own discretion when accepting or rejecting advertising.

“While they’re very aware of the ASA provisions and tend to be cautious in accepting advertising, this is not something the ASA has any control over. If we receive a complaint, we will naturally start the process of investigation.”

The Star