Television watchdog ad libs over Ikea's blitz on chintz

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The Independent Online
Ikea's advertisement urging housewives to "chuck out your chintz today" prompted 23 complaints of sexism and wastefulness, none of which was upheld, it emerged today. The television advert showed a street of housewives liberating themselves from their old-fashioned flowery furnishings by throwing them into a skip and replacing them with streamlined Ikea products.

The scene evoked images of 1970s feminism and the soundtrack reinforced the message: "We're battling hard and we've come a long way, in choices and status, in jobs and in pay."

It triggered complaints from viewers that it was sexist and patronising, that it was irresponsible to encourage such wastefulness and that it offended those who liked chintz.

Critics included the commentator Suzanne Moore in the Independent, who said it suggested feminism had achieved its aims and was now irrelevant except as a lifestyle accessory. "This ad wants us to believe in some Seventies notion of women's liberation even though, with a nod and a wink, it assumes that we belong to a post-feminist era," she wrote. "We have, it appears, achieved most of what there was to achieve and now that we know that interior decor reveals our very soul we must strip away the signs of old-style femininity."

The campaign was the brainchild of Hilary Pepler, a former air hostess, who is Ikea's communications manger. Last month she told Campaign magazine, a trade journal, that the advert targeted women "because they still have a fussy doll's house aesthetic."

But in its monthly report today the Independent Television Commission says it found "insufficient basis for intervention" because, although the ad may not have been to some viewers' liking, few would have found it highly objectionable.

Complaints about gender stereotyping in advertising are again frequent after a period when agencies appeared to be showing concern about accusations of sexism. The Advertising Standards Authority reported an overall rise of 33 per cent in complaints last year, with the sexist and demeaning portrayal of women prominent among categories that offended.

Earlier this month Harvey Nichols was accused of demeaning women by using a poster of the model Jodie Kidd on a dog lead to promote a new store in Leeds. Harvey Nichols replied that the adverts were "stylish and quirky" rather than offensive.

Other recent campaigns that provoked offence were the Gossard's Glossies bra ad (a woman in a see-through bra and panties lying in a haystack with the slogan: "Who says a woman can't get pleasure from something soft?") and Club 18-30's Beaver Espana campaign (a poster of a bulging crotch and the line: "Girls, can we interest you in a package holiday?")