The ad, which appeared in Vogue magazine, was created by The Glue Society and named as one of Campaign's best press ads in its annual Book of Lists in December 2003.
The agency was briefed to launch Elle Macpherson's lingerie range without featuring Elle "the body" herself.
The ad shows an image, framed as though seen through a keyhole, of the torso and thighs of a woman wearing bra and knickers. The woman's thumbs were inside her knickers and her fingers were resting on her thigh and crotch. A member of the public complained that the ad was offensive because it suggested that the model was masturbating.
The Advertising Standards Authority agreed and ruled that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Bendon, UK licensees for Elle Macpherson Intimates, said that the ad was inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock classic movie 'Rear Window'. It claimed that it had decided not to show the model's face as this was the first campaign for the lingerie brand not featuring Elle Macpherson. It claimed that the ad showed an intimate moment and that the photograph was feminine, luxurious and stylised.
Vogue argued that it had received no complaints about the ad and that it had published earlier ads in the campaign without any complaints. Vogue said it saw the ad as a beautiful image with no disturbing undertones.
The ASA said that because it implied that the woman was masturbating it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The move is the latest upmarket lingerie brand to be criticised for going too far. Last month Agent Provocateur was pulled up by the authority for an ad thought to be "offensive, pornographic and degrading to women".
The ad, which appeared in The Observer's Body Uncovered supplement in October last year, showed a woman, who was wearing black leather gloves and lingerie, sitting astride another woman, who was lying on her back. The woman wearing gloves was holding a stocking that was stretched around the other woman's neck.
If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum here.