ASA boots out complaints over ‘sexist’ footwear TV ad

striveComplaints over a TV ad for Strive Footwear which featured an “authoritative and knowledgeable” man and “shallow and frivolous” woman have been stamped on by the ad watchdog despite claims the spot perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes.

The ad featured a male podiatrist dressed in a white lab coat who stated, “Podiatrists know that Strive’s innovative footwear helps relieve pain from fallen arches”. The podiatrist looked surprised when a woman in a blue dress suddenly appeared alongside him and stated, “And I know they make my feet happy”.

The podiatrist picked up a shoe and stated, “They can help with foot problems like plantar fasciitis”. The woman quickly took the shoe from him and replied, “And I recommend them for friends struggling with foot pain”.

A voiceover then stated, “Strive’s unique foot bed technology follows the natural curves of the foot, improving weight distribution and posture”. Finally, the woman appeared on screen again and stated, “And I think they look great”.

But two viewers rifled off complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, claiming the ad perpetuated gender stereotypes.

In response, Strive Footwear refuted the claims, saying the dryness of the statements delivered by the man in the ad needed to be distinct from those put forward by the woman, who had a different perspective and delivery.

Clearcast said that the purpose of the casting – with a woman as the consumer, and a man as the podiatrist – was to highlight the different benefits of the advertised products from two different points of view; the genders of the podiatrist and consumer in the ad were therefore incidental to its message.

The ASA considered the scenario presented in the ad. The ad featured a man, wearing a lab coat, speaking in a dry tone, using jargon, and talking about the technicalities of the shoes being advertised, using medical terminology and demonstrating medical knowledge. The ad also featured a woman, making enthusiastic observations about the shoes’ look and comfort.

In its ruling, the ASA stated: “Viewers were likely to understand that the two characters offered two different perspectives on the product, both of which had value. We did not consider that the ad suggested that the woman was shallow or frivolous, but rather that she was translating the comments made by the podiatrist into statements that would have more meaning for a layperson and also commenting on the appearance of the shoes.

“Furthermore, there was only one person of each gender featured in the ad, and the message conveyed by the scenario was not dependent on the podiatrist role being played by a man. We considered that the ad did not suggest that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender; were the only options available to one gender; or were never carried or displayed by another gender.”

Clearing the ad, the watchdog concluded: “We did not consider that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes and did not breach the Code.”

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