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Sexist ALAC Advertisements

Filed under: General — Ministry of Men's Affairs @ 12:02 pm Wed 16th July 2008

FYI, here is my complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

The three advertisements from the same advertiser came as a package and have all been shown in turn and repeatedly over the same significant time period. They portray men and only men causing violence and injury to others through drinking alcohol excessively, while they portray women and only women who drink excessively as only being victims of male violence.

Truthful Presentation: The sexist portrayal by the advertisements as a group is untruthful and misleading because, factually, drunk women and not just men are more likely than when sober to cause violence, harm and injury to others either deliberately or accidently. For example, drunk females will be as impaired in driving a car, using a stove or in caring for children as will drunk males. Therefore the advertisements as a group breach Rule 2 of the Advertising Code of Ethics which states:

2. Truthful Presentation – Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).

The advertisements do not involve “obvious hyperbole” but instead provide highly realistic portrayals of the scenes.

Fear and Superstition: The advertisements strongly imply that only men cause harm when drinking and women only become more vulnerable victims. While men may cause more violent crime than do women, the actual degree of gender difference is much less than what is fashionably and superstitiously believed to be the case. For example, it is widely believed that men cause almost all domestic violence but scientifically rigorous research consistently shows that women initiate domestic physical violence as often as men do, and although the average seriousness of women’s domestic physical violence is less than that for men the difference is much less than the public has been led to believe. About a third as many men are killed each year by their domestic partners as are women, and available research suggests this ratio also approximately applies for injuries requiring medical treatment. The ALAC advertisements perpetrate existing superstitious myths about male vs female risk for violence and other dangerous behaviour . There is no justifiable reason, in warning the public about the dangers of excessive drinking, to play on exaggerated fears about the risk presented by men or to promote unwarranted trust that drunk women will not present a danger. Therefore the advertisements as a group breach Rule 6 of the Advertising Code of Ethics which states:

6. Fear – Advertisements should not exploit the superstitious, nor without
justifiable reason, play on fear.

Further, the advertisements as a group breach Principle 4 of the Code for People In Advertising which states:

4. Stereotypes may be used to simplify the process of communication in relation to both the product offered and the intended consumer. However, advertisements should not use stereotypes in the portrayal of the role, character and behaviour of groups of people in society which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

Offensiveness: The advertisements are highly offensive and threatening to men because they denigrate men’s behaviour and sanitize women’s behaviour unnecessarily, without even any relevance to the intended message. Numerous men have written to blogs and web sites concerned with gender politics and the modern plight of men and fathers, expressing their disgust for the way the advertisements portray men vs women. Many men now live in fear of false accusation and conviction or other consequences given the impact of stereotypes on popular attitudes, law, employment codes etc. Therefore the advertisements as a group breach Rule 5 of the Advertising Code of Ethics which states:

5. Offensiveness – Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services).

Further, the advertisements breach Principles 2 and 3 of the Code for People in Advertising which states:

2. Advertisements should not portray people in a manner which is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

3. Advertisements should not portray people in a manner which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of their gender; race; colour; ethnic or national origin; age; cultural, religious, political or ethical belief; sexual orientation; marital status; family status; education; disability; occupational or employment status.

Finally, the advertisements as a group breach Principles 3 and 4 of the Advertising Code of Ethics which state:

3. No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer.
4. All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social
responsibility to consumers and to society.

Only harm to society can come from unrealistic denigration of men.


  1. Any news on this? If a woman can get the burger king advert taken off air during home and away because she didn’t want her daughter seeing women in bikini’s. Even though thats pretty much all home and away is! You should have a good case.

    Comment by Scott — Fri 29th August 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  2. Following up from this post: The Advertising Standards Authority wrote back dismissing my complaint on the grounds that the ads had already been complained about and those complaints had been dismissed. I understand that the previous complaints were about the shock and bad taste of the ads, not on the grounds of gender discrimination. It seems that the Authority did not read and consider my complaint on its own merits. I did not have time or energy to take this further at the time.

    However, I just viewed an excellent advertisement by Starship Foundation that supports Starship Children’s Hospital. It was on Flash Player here (but as it’s an inserted ad, it may not last long): The ad is headed “YOU CAN’T TRADE PLACES BUT YOU CAN HELP” and shows a short video of a father taking his young son to hospital, comforting him and settling him in his hospital bed. You can click to hear the sound track. I will write to Starship congratulating them on their positive portrayal of a father and his bonding with his son, and I encourage others to do so also. Find the email contact for Starship Foundation here

    Comment by Hans Laven — Sat 12th September 2009 @ 10:39 am

  3. The Starship advertisement can be viewed on Youtube here

    Comment by Hans Laven — Wed 16th September 2009 @ 8:22 pm

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