The ad featured an image of two girls of primary school age in pinafore dresses with the slogan: “Make those heads turn in H&M’s Back to School fashion.”
The retailer has now withdrawn the ad and apologised.
In an uproar of backlash on social media, users expressed their concern about the ad, with one describing it as “H&M sexualising children” and another labelling it “inappropriate”.
One wrote: “What the hell is going on? This is sickening, sexualising kids.”
Another user posted on X: “This is revolting H&M, take down the ad & investigate how the ad got approval” as a third wrote: “It’s disheartening to hear about the H&M Australia Back to School ad causing outrage among parents.
“The caption used in the ad seems highly inappropriate and insensitive. Brands should prioritize responsible advertising, especially when it involves children.”
“I get why parents are upset about that H&M ad,” another user wrote. “It’s pretty tone-deaf to use the phrase ‘Make those heads turn’ with images of young girls in school uniforms. It feels like they missed the mark on what’s appropriate for a back to school campaign.”
Responding to the backlash, H&M apologised and said the advert had been taken down.
“We are deeply sorry for the offence this has caused and will look into how we present campaigns going forward.”
Mumsnet founder and chief executive Justine Roberts said: “Mumsnet users have long been concerned about a sexualised culture creeping into the lives of children – which is why we launched our Let Girls Be Girls campaign in 2010.
“It’s disappointing to see that, 14 years later, retailers are still creating inappropriate adverts that prematurely sexualise young girls.
“While we’re pleased that H&M have accepted their mistake and removed the advert, it really should never have been created in the first place.
“Our users would love to be reassured that they’re taking steps to ensure everyone at H&M is crystal clear about the issue so it doesn’t happen again.”