ASA blasts rise of ‘Girl Power’ ads

Three advertising campaigns trying to convey the essence of the Spice Girls’ “Girl Power” philosophy have sparked a flood of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.

In this month’s ASA report, the watchdog warns of the risks of causing offence by showing men being demeaned by women, or women playing on their power over men.

It cites a clutch of campaigns as evidence of this trend, including: a Nissan Micra ad through TBWA Simons Palmer, showing a man holding his crotch as if in pain with the caption: “Ask before you borrow it”; and an ad for Wallis by Bartle Bogle Hegarty with the line: “Dressed to kill”, where women wearing the advertised clothes distract men into having fatal accidents.

The images were seen as “offensive, sexist, sadistic and likely to condone violence” by complainants, but the ASA ruled that none were likely to cause serious or widespread offence and did not ban them.

Complaints from British Gas Trading about regional press ads for Calortex and Eastern Natural Gas were upheld, and prompted a warning to companies in this newly-deregulated and highly competitive sector not to exaggerate product benefits or make misleading claims.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here