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LONDON - An advertisement portraying a scantily clad schoolgirl seductively twirling her hair is offensive, a British watchdog agency said Wednesday in demanding that low-cost airline Ryanair not run it again.
Ryanair Holdings PLC said the ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority was absurd and the airline had no intention of honoring it.
The agency said the ad's headline — "HOTTEST back to school fares" — combined with the model's pose in an empty classroom "appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behavior."
The ad ran last summer in three newspapers.
The agency said the advertisement was likely to cause "serious or widespread offense" and demanded Ryanair not run it again.
Ryanair spokesman Peter Sherrard said in a statement that many British newspapers regularly run pictures of topless or partially dressed women.
"It is remarkable that a picture of a fully clothed model is now claimed to cause 'serious or widespread offense,'" Sherrard said. "This isn't advertising regulation, it is simply censorship."
The authority said the newspapers which originally ran the ad have agreed not to carry it again. The agency has no enforcement powers, but it can refer advertisers to Britain's Office of Fair Trading for legal action.
The complaint comes two days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy's spokesman said the president plans to take legal action against Ryanair for using a photo of him and girlfriend Carla Bruni in another advertisement.
That ad, published Monday in the French daily Le Parisien, shows the smiling couple with a comic book speech bubble coming from Bruni's head saying: "With Ryanair, all my family can come to my wedding."
Last month, the airline ran afoul of Spain's government-run Women's Institute, which complained about Ryanair's 2008 calendar and called it sexist. The calendar featured bikini-clad flight attendants blowing suggestively into a lifejacket and washing a plane.
Ryanair said proceeds from sales of the calendar went to charity, and that the women had posed voluntarily.