LONG-ESTABLISHED footwear firm’s attempts to modernise its image using topless models have been banned by a watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the company’s marketing campaign, featuring female nudity alongside the phrase ‘fancy a pair?’, was ‘sexist, degrading to women, and objectifying women’.

It banned the multi-media campaign by Stacksteads firm Redfoot Shoes trading as Goodwin Smith as ‘likely to cause serious and widespread offence’.

Tim Smith, managing director of the company based at Atherton Holme Mill in Stacksteads, defended the campaign as appropriate to its ‘target audience’ of men between 22 and 45.

He said: “We see the video as a light-hearted fantasy concept for men. It is certainly not intended to degrade women. Ironically the majority of the production team who made the video were women.”

The adverts, accompanied by images of three models in just knickers and available with their breasts bare after 9pm on the firm’s YouTube channel, attracted nine complaints to the ASA claiming they were offensive because they were ‘sexist, objectifying women, and degrading to women’.

After an investigation the ASA backed the complaints despite the fact the women were covering their breasts with shoes except on the after-9pm watershed video which had a warning it was ‘explicit and not suitable for under-18s’.

The campaign by the former Bacup Shoe Company available via email, Faebook and YouTube included a woman in her underwear on all fours and a topless woman serving a man a drink.

The ASA found it breached rules regarding social responsibility as well as harm and offence, and banned the ads.

Mr Smith, who has been seeking to transform the firm bought by his father 27 years ago for the online age, said: “As shoe suppliers since 1928, our simple objective was to promote Goodwin Smith shoes to a specific target audience.

“The response among our followers on social media was, on the whole, extremely positive.

“There were only nine complaints. We ask you, do you think it is fair that such a small minority can control what is perceived by the vast majority as totally acceptable?

“No nude images were promoted until after 9 pm. The video concept is not unique.”

Bacup county councillor Peter Steen backed the firm, saying: “Tim was doing his best to get the company noticed. Well done.”

Earlier this month Mr Smith said: “Our brands are really active on social media. Unlike many footwear manufacturers we’re pretty risque and edgy. We don’t always toe the line and that voice really resonates with our customers.”

The ASA ruling said: “We considered that a number of scenes - such as the opening shot of a topless blonde woman with the phrase ‘fancy a pair?’ shown on screen and the shot with a woman in her underwear on all fours with the product on her back, were sexually suggestive and that for most of the video the women danced in a seductive manner.

“We considered the general content, and those scenes in particular, to be both sexually suggestive and degrading to women, and therefore likely to cause serious offence.”

“We considered that topless and lingerie-clad women were irrelevant to the shoes being advertised and that the general tone of the ads was also both sexually suggestive and degrading to women.

“We did not think that the warnings provided were sufficient to counter the likely offence caused by the scenes in the ad.

“Because the ads were sexist, degrading to women, and objectifying women, we considered that they were likely to cause serious and widespread offence, including to Goodwin Smith’s potential customer base.

“The ad must not appear again in its current form.

“We told Goodwin Smith to ensure that in the future their ads were socially responsible and that they did not objectify women.”