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  • Sophie Manning

Why sexist ads are funny again

Updated: Oct 11, 2019


Porsche's much-criticised 'Attractive Servicing' campaign ran in a February 2019 edition of 911 & Porsche World magazine

A woman’s torso sticks out from underneath a car, her skirt riding up her thighs. The Porsche slogan underneath it: “Attractive servicing”.


In 2016 a Lloyds Banking Group report found that women are both underrepresented and seriously misrepresented in UK adverts. They “rarely occupied positions of power and when they did the role was often linked to seduction, beauty or motherhood”. Well done to Lloyds for doing the research, but nobody reading it was surprised.


Sexist ads have begun to attract attention (think “beach body ready). People have begun to complain in their droves as they and their kids sit in the car listening to a radio ad for an electrical store quipping:

“Yes, everyone’s going to Budd Electrical! It’s B, U, double D and we all love a double D, right?”

So in this increasingly discrimination-sensitive age, why aren’t these ads going out of fashion? None of the executives responsible for these ridiculously sexist adverts over the last few years got the memo, and it’s easy to find more examples.


The trouble is, bad jokes and lazy copywriting get funnier as the issues become more taboo. In the last throes of sexism, the jokes in Sprite’s #BrutallyRefreshing campaign (A 2 at 10 is a 10 at 2!) get a second wind. Like the class clown in year 3, they’re playing on the timeless humour of the naughty.


That’s where regulation comes in. The ASA recently published welcome new guidelines banning “harmful gender stereotypes”. Its examples included:

An ad depicting a man with his feet up and family members creating a mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning the mess
An ad that depicts a man being adventurous juxtaposed to a woman being delicate
An ad that depicts a man or woman failing to achieve a task specifically due to their gender
An ad that belittles a man for displaying emotional vulnerability

The ASA gave advertisers until June this year to get it together, sounding the starting gun on tired sexist humour.


Use this Newsround article to start a conversation with your child about gender stereotyping in advertising.

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