A new advertisement for the UK-based specialty computer retailer PC Specialist has been banned by the country’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) due to complaints that the ad “perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes” because it didn’t feature any women.

The ad features close-ups of colorfully illuminated computer parts before switching to three men, one white, one black, and one Asian, taking advantage of the specialized hardware to game, edit music, and code, while a voiceover boasts that PC Specialist’s services are “from the specialists, for the specialists.”

“It’s the beginning of the end. The end of following. It’s the start of freedom. Individuality. choice. It’s an uprising. An insurgence. For the players, the gamers, the ‘I’ll sleep laters’. The creators, the editors, the music makers. The techies, the coders, the illustrators. Bespoke, customized, like no other. From the specialists for the specialists. PC Specialist.”

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According to the ASA, the organization received “eight complainants” from viewers “who believed that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting men in roles that were stereotypically male and implying that it was only men who were interested in technology and computers.”

PC Specialist responded to the ASA by stating that their “customer base was 87.5% male, aged between 15 and 35 years” and thus “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 PC Specialist core customer base.”

The retailer also argued that “they did not believe they represented negative stereotypes and were playing the roles of entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers and hard workers” while addressing the issue of female representation by stating that “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” and that 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.”

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Despite the defense offered up by PC Specialist, the ASA upheld their ruling, explaining that “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,” which caused the organization to “therefore [consider] that the ad implied that excellence in those roles and fields would be seen as the preserve of men.”

“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 way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code.”

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PC Specialist has since pulled the advertisement.

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