The ad watchdog has managed to avoid a repetition of the backlash which was triggered by its first ever rulings on gender stereotyping in advertising, with the latest adjudications outlawing two blatant breaches by virtually unknown brands.
First up was a poster for recruitment company PeoplePerHour, devised by agency George & Dragon, which appeared on the London Underground in November.
The ad, which featured an image of a woman alongside the copy “You do the girl boss thing. We’ll do the SEO thing”, triggered 19 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.
They all challenged whether the poster perpetrated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting a woman running a business in a patronising way and implying women were not technologically skilled.
In response, PeoplePerHour admitted that the ad might “unintentionally” be seen as sexist and demeaning to women and said it has since removed the word “girl” from the ad and issued an apology on its website.
Meanwhile, a TV ad for PC Specialist which ran in September has also been battered. It featured three men performing different activities on computers, with a male voiceover stating: “For the players, the gamers, the I’ll sleep laters, the creators, the editors, the music makers. The techies, the coders, the illustrators.”
This sparked eight complaints to the ASA that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by implying only men were interested in technology and depicting men in stereotypically male roles.
PC Specialist initially tried to justify the ad by insisting the vast majority of its customers were male and that it had not considered the ad to be offensive. Even so, the company admitted it had scrapped the ad and has since carried out training internally.
The rulings are a far cry from the first round of adjudications last summer, which saw seemingly innocuous ads by Volkswagen and Mondelez UK brand Philadelphia outlawed for “harmful” imagery.
The decisions sparked a stiff rebuke from both the IPA and ISBA, who accused the watchdog of being heavy handed.
At the time, IPA director of legal and public affairs Richard Lindsay said: “The rulings are surprising and concerning and we question how either can really be considered likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
“These rulings raise many questions and are bound to cause confusion in the industry over whether, and if so, how, ads are able to feature people going about their daily lives.”
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