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PC Specialist TV AD pulled down for ‘strongly implying’ sexism

The UK-based Advertising Standards Authority said that PC Specialist’ TV advert strongly implied only men could excel in the specialisms and roles depicted in it. The Advertising Standards Authority received eight complaints which claimed that the advertisement enabled gender stereotypes.


ASA’s Conclusion

The decision to uphold that assessment and therefore take down that video is as follows:

The ad began with a PC exploding and went on to state “freedom, individuality and choice” before referencing a number of specialist and creative roles in quick succession, encompassing leisure pursuits and professional positions, not just limited to information technology, but in the creative and artistic industries and entertainment, namely: players/gamers, creators, editors, music makers, techies, coders and illustrators. We considered that the voice-over and fast-paced series of scenes in the ad conveyed a sense of excitement and opportunity and implied that those depicted in the ad were innovative, highly skilled and achieving excellence in the roles and careers mentioned and that those watching should aspire to excel in them too. However, the ad repeatedly cut to images of only men, who were both prominent and central to the ad’s message of opportunity and excellence across multiple desirable career paths. We, therefore, considered that the ad implied that excellence in those roles and fields would be seen as the preserve of men. Because of that, we considered that the ad went further than just featuring a cross-section of the advertiser’s core customer base and implied that only men could excel in those roles.

Although the guidance did not prohibit ads from featuring only one gender, we considered that because the ad strongly implied only men could excel in the specialisms and roles depicted we concluded the ad presented gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code. 

PC Specialist’s response to the ASA

PC Specialist did provide its defence, which was mentioned in the ASA’s report:

PCSpecialist Ltd explained that customers could visit their website and build their own PC, configured to their own requirements. They said their customer base was 87.5% male, aged between 15 and 35 years. Their product, branding and service had been developed for and aimed at that target audience and the characters in the ad, therefore, represented a cross-section of the PCSpecialist core customer base. PCSpecialist said the characters looked into the camera as though they were using a PCSpecialist machine. They did not believe they represented negative stereotypes and were playing the roles of entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers and hard workers. They considered there was no comparison between men and women in the ad and the ad did not imply that women were not interested in computers. They said the ad did not juxtapose men using computers with women not using computers, nor did the ad explicitly state that women did not use computers or that the service was unsuitable for them.

The company did not make any post regarding the matter via its social media.

Personal take:

It is unfortunate that, in modern times, you have to point out that the lack of diversity does not imply sexism or racism. It is only when you berate a demographic for who they are that is a serious problem which warrants a takedown and a penalty. This advertisement does none of that. Far from it. The takedown reasoning is so frivolous that banning this ad on the grounds of blowing up a non-RGB PC in favour of RGB-puke systems for content creation would have made more sense (THIS IS A JOKE!). But when the authorized bodies misinterpret its own regulations, it creates a bad perception about using TV as a platform for advertising, or about people in general.

We need to stop behaving like an angry mob from the medieval times with pitchforks and torches in a modern adaptation for something that is not a problem. Such knee-jerk reaction and action downplay the seriousness of social evils in our society. It reminds me when The Verge did not initially accept criticisms (and parody) from system builders, reviewers and Youtubers for a DIY PC build guide that was not done properly, to be put mildly. Instead, they were blamed for racism and used the legal system to take down criticism of a very counter-productive guide that will be seen and accepted by a larger, uninformed audience that would like to build PCs.

PC Specialist TV AD pulled down for ‘strongly implying’ sexism from HardwareBBQ

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