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.