Second wave of ads banned for gender stereotyping

Rulings follow Mondelez and Volkswagen ad bans in August.

PeoplePerHour: complainants said ad implied women were not technologically skilled
PeoplePerHour: complainants said ad implied women were not technologically skilled

The Advertising Standards Authority has cracked down on a second wave of ads to fall foul of new rules around gender stereotyping – upholding complaints about ads from PeoplePerHour and PC Specialist.

The watchdog found ads by the two companies to have broken rules that dictate brands should not perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Recruitment company PeoplePerHour's poster ad, which was created by George & Dragon and appeared on the London Underground in November, featured an image of a woman and copy that stated: "You do the girl boss thing. We'll do the SEO thing."

The ASA said it received 19 complaints about the execution, with complainants challenging whether it perpetrated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting a woman running a business in a patronising way and implying women were not technologically skilled.

PeoplePerHour acknowledged that the ad might unintentionally come across as sexist and demeaning to women and said it has since removed the word "girl" from the ad and issued an apology on its site.

PC Specialist's ad was seen on TV in September and showed 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."

Eight people contacted the regulator to complain, claiming that the spot perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by implying only men were interested in technology and depicting men in stereotypically male roles.

PC Specialist told the ASA that the vast majority of its customers were male and that it had not considered the ad to be offensive. However, the company said it had pulled it and has since carried out training internally.

Mondelez and Volkswagen first to break new rules

The two ads are the second round of work to be banned for breaking the ASA's gender stereotyping rules, which came into force in June 2019.

Mondelez International and Volkswagen were the first companies to fall foul of the rules in August, with ads for Philadelphia soft cheese and the eGolf model banned. 

The IPA and ISBA expressed "confusion" and "concern" over the decision to ban the ads, calling it "surprising". 

Clearcast, meanwhile, said at the time that the ASA's interpretation of the new rules goes "further than we had anticipated and has implications for a wide range of ads".

The ASA also investigated a radio ad for Foster's in September that depicted men giving advice to another man on the phone, urging him not to move in with his girlfriend but to "buy time" by pretending to have renovations made to his property.

Despite three complaints, the watchdog found the spot did not break gender stereotyping rules.

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