By Edwina Seselja
Advertising could lose its sense of humour in exchange for political correctness says a marketing expert after the industry body ruled a television commercial “vilified” husbands.
The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) board recently upheld a complaint about an Allpest commercial depicting husbands as “pests”.
The West Australian ad, which has been running for the past 10 years, featured a woman calling the pest control company and asking which insects they exterminate, before asking if they “do husbands”.
“Gender stereotyping, where the caller asks this company [presumably] if they ‘do husbands’. Would it be any more or less acceptable if the caller asked this company it ‘they did wives’ as opposed to husbands. I suspect it most certainly would not be,” the complaint stated.
The ASB report stated its ruling was based on the precedent of the Ashley Madison case, whereby the board determined the ad breached the Advertiser Code of Ethics.
“The majority of the board felt that comparing husbands to pests is degrading and vilifying of husbands,” the ASB report said.
Allpest has expressed disappointment it the ruling saying their ad “cannot and should not be compared to [the Ashley Madison] advertising as it’s a totally different context and situation”.
Dr Andrew Hughes specialises in marketing at the Australian National University and says the move to ban the ad is a reflection of changing community expectations.
“When you make a joke it’s usually at someone’s expense…we may in fact see less humour in advertising,” he said.
“It’s going to remove a lot of style in Australian advertising and some of the humour being used. It might be light-hearted banter which might make fun of a certain group, in this case it might be husbands.
“If we are banning that ad, we should ban The Simpsons as well.
“If you’re going to ban an ad you have to also then ban TV shows which do exactly the same thing.”
Dr Hughes says this move will force advertisers to find new ways to engage with audiences.
‘Narrow minded’ to focus on gender
He says while gender-based humour may be offensive to some, the ASB should direct its attention to advertising that has the potential to be harmful to consumers.
“We need to discriminate between disliking a commercial and a commercial that is being offensive.”
Dr Hughes said the market was saturated with weight loss commercials, primarily targeted at women, which had the potential to do harm by making women feel bad about their bodies.
“Is that type of ad more damaging to us as a society than a joke about husbands made 10 years ago by a company in WA?”
He also flagged gambling ads targeted at young men or fast food ads targeted at children as areas of concern in advertising.
“There needs to be a harder discussion on these … types of messages and the damage they can do to certain people in our society.”
Commercials that are influencing peoples behaviours for the worse are the ads that need to be banned, Dr Hughes says.
“We should be thinking a bit more seriously about what issues are affecting our society and what we should do about those issues.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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