World Cup 2014: Advertisers using ‘antiquated sexism’ in TV campaigns

Football-themed commercials criticised for their  ‘outdated’ portrayal of both male and female stereotypes

It is the safest sign that a major football tournament is imminent: an influx of adverts portraying women as sport-loathing killjoys and men as oafs interested only in goals and boobs. According to campaigners, this year’s World Cup is proving a vintage year.

A rash of regressive marketing campaigns, apparently from the imagination of 1950s ad men, have been provoking complaints. Pot Noodle’s take on the World Cup’s Brazilian location is a talking beach towel that leers at women in skimpy bikinis, which has prompted 94 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and a deluge of objections on social media.

A Unilever spokeswoman said the advert was intended to be “tongue-in-cheek” but that since “a number of viewers did not appreciate it”, it will no longer be broadcast in its current form.

Feminist campaigners say that female football fans are absent from the majority of World Cup-themed advertising and when women appear they are generally cast as either nags or window dressing.

The latest advert for Pringles (re-branded Pringoooals for the duration of the tournament) features a man with three friends in England colours watching a match on television.

When the man’s phone rings, he answers it and says: “Oh hi hon, I’m just travelling. Yeah, I’m going into a tunnel,” before sticking his mobile into a Pringles tube and putting the lid on it.

In an advert for Pringles, football-loving men avoid their ‘killjoy’ girlfriends by pretending their mobile phones are losing signal In an advert for Pringles, football-loving men avoid their ‘killjoy’ girlfriends by pretending their mobile phones are losing signal

The feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez, said: “[Adverts like these] are incredibly antiquated and not at all reflective of society and who is watching football… it’s trivialising women and turning men into slathering blokes who are only concerned with watching football, drinking beer and ogling girls. It’s embarrassing for everyone concerned.”

In a similar vein to Pringles, Curry’s PC World’s “Football? What Football?” campaign features three different husbands trying to con their wives into buying big televisions so they can watch football. The advert prompted a handful of complaints to the ASA but most saved their vitriol for social media.

One viewer, Katie Pugh, posted on Twitter: “Currys still churning out sexist adverts, completely oblivious that as many women as men will be glued to the tellybox during the World Cup!”

Another, Louise Thomson, wrote: “Not impressed with advertising using World Cup as an excuse for #everydaysexism @Pringles and Currys PC World, I’m looking at you.”

A Curry’s spokesman said: “Our current TV campaign is driven by a universal insight about relationships, which provides fertile ground for humour and if anything shows the female in the ultimate position of authority. Our advertising in no way says that only men purchase TVs.”

But Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, said that this kind of advertising excluded women from the game.

This Currys-PC World campaign features a husband trying to con his green-fingered wife into buying a big television for her to watch her gardening programmes on This Currys-PC World campaign features a husband trying to con his green-fingered wife into buying a big television for her to watch her gardening programmes on

“The World Cup provides an opportunity for everyone – male and female – to celebrate a sport they are passionate about,” she said. “What a shame then that so many of the current advertising campaigns using the World Cup as a hook still exclude women.”

She said they were aware of only one campaign that recognises women as having any role to play in football.

“The others present women, at best, as being disinterested in the game and at worst as being capable only of looking good on a Brazilian beach dressed in a teeny tiny bikini. Women now make over 70 per cent of household purchasing decisions.

“Furthermore, with 80,000 women in the UK telling us they want to play football and many more who love to watch the World Cup, it’s clear advertisers are missing a trick by reflecting only the dated stereotype that football is the preserve of men.”

A Pringles spokeswoman said: “The majority of our TV adverts feature men and women.”

Meanwhile, the Odeon One cinema in Liverpool has cancelled “World Cup Widow” screenings of female-friendly films during the tournament after complaints from feminist groups.

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