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News 2 Jun 2022 - 3 min read

‘This is no longer okay’: Two ads breach ethics code for gender stereotypes – one was ruled acceptable five years ago

By Sam Buckingham-Jones - Deputy Editor

A jingle used by small Queensland retailer The BOSS Shop was a “lazy play on an old fashioned trope”, and was “outdated and condescending", Ad Standards ruled.

Five years is a long time in advertising, as small Queensland industrial retailer The BOSS Shop has discovered. An ad they’ve been running for seven years, which was found to be acceptable five years ago, has been pulled off for “degrading” and “belittling” women. “This is no longer okay,” Ad Standards says. Likewise, an ad for a homebuilder in Perth has been found to have negatively used a stereotype of women being indecisive.

What you need to know:

  • Two ads have been found in breach of Ad Standards’ Code of Ethics for violating discrimination and vilification rules. Both played on gender stereotypes of women.
  • One of the ads, for industrial store The BOSS Shop was found to be okay five years ago, highlighting how cultural standards have changed over that time.

A television ad for industrial retailer The BOSS Shop has been found in breach of Ad Standards’ guidelines – five years after the exact same ad was found to be acceptable.

In a case study of how community standards change over time, the television ad, which has run for seven years, was one of two brand ads this month found in breach for negatively playing on female gender stereotypes.

The BOSS Shop’s television ad ran with a jingle that said, “You’re gonna need us if you’re a tradie, so come in and see us, we can even help the ladies”.

Ad Standards said a complaint was lodged that the ad was degrading and belittling women as people who couldn’t be tradies.

The brand replied, saying it did not imply women couldn’t be tradies – just that the word ‘ladies’ rhymes with ‘tradies’ and that women are welcome. The store has more women on staff than men, the advertiser added, something about which it is proud.

The community panel at Ad Standards ruled that the line in the jingle was a “lazy play on an old fashioned trope”, and was “outdated and condescending”. The use of the word ‘even’ made the meaning worse. The ad was taken off the air.

In February 2017, however, Ad Standards ruled the same ad “is an attempt to combat the negative association that people have about industrial retail shops and the trade industry in general rather than suggestion that woman [sic] should be singled out for any negative reasons”.

Another ad, for Western Australian home manufacturer Aveling Homes, also fell afoul of Ad Standards’ discrimination guidelines for negatively playing on a stereotype of women.

The radio ad for the homes promotes the fact customers can “make as many changes as you need” – but by announcing the brand “clearly understand(s) that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind”.

The brand insisted it was an attempt at humour, depicting a fickle woman changing her mind about how the home should be designed, but Ad Standards disagreed.

“While highlighting the stereotype as outdated and ridiculous may have been the intent of the advertiser, the actual impression of the advertisement is much different,” it said.

“This negative impression is contributed to by having a male voiceover and that the overall impact is one of condescension and promoting a negative and unnecessary gender trope.” This ad, too, was removed.

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