A 10-year-old commercial has been deemed “degrading and vilifying of husbands” by the advertising watchdog in a decision that could set a precedent for current and future ads, according to a report by media and marketing website Mumbrella.*
The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) upheld a complaint against an Allpest commercial that depicted husbands as “pests”.
The radio ad for the Western Australian company features a woman calling the pest control company Allpest and asking if it would exterminate 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 read.
Below is the television version of the Allpest radio ad which is largely the same as the radio version which the ASB ruled on.
“The majority of the Board felt that this advertisement did discriminate against and vilify husbands on the basis of gender,” the ASB report read.
“The Board considered that the advertisement did portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of sexual preference or nationality.”
The double standard
Prominent British journalist and columnist Tom Utley wrote in the Daily Mail that there is a double standard for women and men in advertising.
However, he also failed to see how the sexualising of women in advertising is offensive.
“I wonder if, 40 years from now, the next generation will look back on the advertisements of 2015 — and marvel how anyone could have thought it acceptable to belittle and ridicule men,” he wrote.
“For the truth is that even now, after decades of listening to feminists on Woman’s Hour, I struggle to see why anyone should be offended by some of the old advertisements [portraying women].”
Some of Mr Utley’s sentiments were echoed, in extreme form, by former Labor leader Mark Latham in a News Corp column, in which he argued that white men are being singled out in a form of reverse racism.
“This is the new trend at the ABC and Fairfax Media – to judge people, not by the quality of their character or their contribution to society, but by the colour of their skin and the shape of their genitals,” he said.
“Unsurprisingly, in this world of reverse racism, white men are being blamed for the whole shebang.”
Men victims of sexism too, ‘MRAs’ argue
The growing backlash against perceived double standards and reverse racism is being championed by a whole movement both in Australia and overseas.
While the Allpest case may be a landmark decision in Australian advertising, there are plenty of examples of ads from overseas that have caused sexist uproar – for men.
This outrage is often promoted behind the banner of MRAs or “Men’s Rights Activists”.
Here are a few that have caused sexist concern for MRAs.
These ads have angered men’s groups because they portray males, and in particular husbands or boyfriends, as unintelligent or ridiculous.
This portrayal has angered MRAs in the same way that the advertising and media stereotypes of women frustrate feminists.
Women have long complained that they are too often portrayed as sexualised humans where their looks are of most, if not all importance, among other representations (housewives etc).
These types of ads are increasingly recognised as unacceptable.
It remains to be seen if the Allpest ad decision is the start of a similar change in the way men are portrayed in advertising.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story did not attribute Mumbrella as the source of the original reporting.
– with ABC