The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the poster, which was seen at multiple sites across London in August, after receiving complaints from four members of the public.
The poster featured an image of the album cover under the headline “HOLY FVCK,” which is also the name of the album. The image showed Lovato sprawled across a large cushioned crucifix in a leather bondage-style outfit.
Under the UK’s code for non-broadcast advertising, ads must be prepared with a “sense of responsibility” and must not contain anything likely to cause serious or widespread offense.
According to the report published by the ASA Wednesday, the complainants “challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence,” while some also suggested it was “irresponsibly placed” where children could see it.
The watchdog investigated and upheld both aspects of the complaints, finding that both the language and the imagery used were likely to cause serious offense.
Polydor Records, a division of Universal Music Group, argued that the posters, which appeared at six different sites and which were removed after four days, primarily included the artwork from the singer’s album, and denied that they were offensive.
“We considered that the image of Ms Lovato bound up in a bondage-style outfit whilst lying on a mattress shaped like a crucifix, in a position with her legs bound to one side which was reminiscent of Christ on the cross, together with the reference to ‘holy fvck’, which in that context was likely to be viewed as linking sexuality to the sacred symbol of the crucifix and the crucifixion, was likely to cause serious offence to Christians,” the report said.
Though misspelt, it would be clear to “most readers that the ad alluded to the expression ‘holy f**k’,” it added.
The watchdog concluded that the poster breached the code, and ruled that it “must not appear again in the form complained of unless it was suitably targeted.”
CNN has reached out to Polydor Records for comment.
Lovato’s eighth studio album, which was released in August, deals with some difficult issues, including drug and alcohol addiction. One of the songs, “Skin of My Teeth,” was inspired by her health challenges following an 2018 overdose, which caused multiple strokes and brain damage. She said on the “Spout” podcast that she was sober throughout the creation of the album, something she is “so proud of.”