Nearly 700 people complained to the ASA about an advert for oven cleaner which says that it's so easy to use that 'even a man can do it.' The ad shows a cross pregnant woman standing by, while the man cleans an oven shelf with exaggerated delight. The ad concludes 'no men were harmed during the making of this commercial.' You can watch the advert here. According to the ASA report, most complainants thought the ad suggested that men were stupid and lazy and so it was sexist and offensive. Other people thought the ad was saying that cleaning is generally a woman's job and so it was offensive and demeaning to women. The ASA did not uphold the complaints, saying that most people would view it as light-hearted and comical. They said, 'We noted that the ad
used mild humour to refer to traditional gender stereotypes but
considered that the overall impression was such that it did not portray
either gender in a way that stigmatised, humiliated or undermined them
by using harmful stereotypes.' Homepride, the makers of the product, said that the ad was meant to be tongue in cheek. They have seen their sales rise by 100% since the ad campaign.
The ASA has an interesting feature on their website about the depiction of men in adverts. They say that up until the mid 1990s most gender-related complaints were about the way that women were portrayed, particularly around the gratuitous use of females to advertise products. Since then, women have been portrayed more positively, but there have been more complaints about men being shown in an unfavourable light. While the ASA still receives more complaints about the potrayal of women, they say that the increase in concern about men in adverts is significant. Most complaints fall into two camps, men being made to be the butt of jokes or shown as a laughing stock or men being shown in a demeaning manner. And there's also an article about the depiction of women.
Humour's a tricky thing to complain about because no one wants to seem uptight and lacking in it. Lots of jokes are based on stereotypes, but there's no justification for lazy humour that belittles and offends. In my opinion, neither men nor women are portrayed particularly positively in this advert. Worse was the Carling ad a few years ago that showed a woman pouring beer all over her flat so that her boyfriend would clean it with his tongue. Men being motivated by alcohol and women being manipulative are sterotypes we could do without.