UK TV Ad Banned for Implying “Excellence” in Tech and PC Gaming Could Only Be Achieved by Men

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A TV advert for UK custom-built PC service PC Specialist has been banned due to complaints from a mere eight people that it pushed gender stereotypes.

Campaign reports that the advert was shown on UK television in September 2019 (shown below via their YouTube channel).

It then received a mere eight complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) claiming they felt the advert “perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting men in roles that were stereotypically male and implying that it was only men who were interested in technology and computers.”

The advert shows three men, with each in turn playing video games, making music, and programming. PC Specialist refuted the claim, stating:

“Their customer base was 87.5% male, aged between 15 and 35 years. Their product, branding and service had been developed for and aimed at that target audience and the characters in the ad therefore represented a cross-section of the PCSpecialist core customer base. PCSpecialist said the characters looked into the camera as though they were using a PCSpecialist machine. They did not believe they represented negative stereotypes and were playing the roles of entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers and hard workers. They considered there was no comparison between men and women in the ad and the ad did not imply that women were not interested in computers. They said the ad did not juxtapose men using computers with women not using computers, nor did the ad explicitly state that women did not use computers or that the service was unsuitable for them.”

While the advert pre-approving organization Clearcast “did not consider that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes,” the AMA upheld the complaints.

“The BCAP Code stated “Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. The joint CAP and BCAP “Advertising guidance on depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence” said that gender-stereotypical characteristics included occupations or positions and also attributes or behaviours usually associated with a specific gender. It added that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender; were the only options available to one gender; or were never carried out or displayed by another gender. The guidance also stated that, subject to the guiding principles, neither the rule nor the guidance were intended to prevent ads from featuring one gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender.”

The issue seems to come from the narrator reading out various hobbies and careers (including gamers, “creators”, editors, “music makers”, “techies”, coders and illustrators) in a fast-paced and exciting manner. Combined with the camera then just cutting to men, the ASA “considered that the ad implied that excellence in those roles and fields would be seen as the preserve of men.”

The advert was then subsequently banned and “must not appear again in the form complained about.” Campaign also reports that PC Specialist complied and and “has since carried out training internally.”

Recruitment company PeoplePerHour also had their advertising poster banned, depicting a woman and the slogan “You do the girl boss thing. We’ll do the SEO thing.” It had received 19 complaints. The post was later re-issued without the word “girl,” and the company reportedly issued an apology on its website.

The new laws stating “[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence” came into effect in June 2019, with Modelez and Volkswagen being the first to have their adverts banned in August 2019.

Modelez’ advert for Philadelphia cheese spread had a man state “let’s not tell Mum” after he absentmindedly left his child on a sushi-bar style conveyor belt. The ban was due to reportedly perpetuating “a harmful stereotype by suggesting that men were incapable of caring for children and would place them at risk as a result of their incompetence.”

The Volkswagen advert for the eGolf showed people achieving great things (a couple camping in a tent hanging off a cliff, male astronauts in space, and a male athlete achieving a long-jump with a prosthetic leg) with the caption “when we adapt, we can achieve anything.” It then showed the electric car driving past a mother and her baby, seemingly not disturbing either of them with noise or pollution. The three complaints against the advert were due to the men showing great things, while the woman was only shown “in a care-giving role.”

While the exact ratio of male to female gamers can vary from source to source, Newzoo claims the UK gaming market in 2018 saw that 38% of men played PC games online, while only 26% of women did. Meanwhile, Quantic Foundry proposed in 2017 that genres such as match-3 puzzle games, and family or farming simulators had woman as 69% of their demographic. Sports, tactical shooters, racing, first-person shooters, and grand strategy games saw less than 10% of women in their demographics.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

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Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.