A television advertising campaign for the cleaning product Cillit Bang has been banned in Spain after authorities ruled that its female-only cast led to the suggestion that only women were responsible for housework.
Three adverts for the cleaning product, which is made by the FTSE-listed Reckitt Benckiser and is used in households around the world, showed 32 ostensibly ordinary women cleaning and wiping their homes.
Not only were the commercials free of any male presence, but the Spanish slogan accompanying the smiling actors, who encouraged people to go out and buy the product, used the feminine form. In Spanish the masculine form is used when referring to a group of both sexes.
In one of the adverts, the actor says she is grateful for product’s prowess and speed at cleaning her bathroom, as it allows her more time to spend with her children.
The adverts were referred to Spain’s self-policing advertising watchdog, which ruled that because only women were used to promote the product, the adverts were “discriminatory for assigning a role according to gender”.
Reckitt Benckiser, which as a result of the action has probably attracted more publicity for its product that it could have hoped for by simply airing the adverts, was forced to alter the commercials to allow them to return to the airwaves.
Spain’s Consumer Association hailed the ruling as a major victory. María Alvarez, a spokesman for the group, told El Mundo newspaper: “It is quite difficult to have an advertising campaign pulled just for being discriminatory because the fact that only women might appear in a campaign isn’t enough for it to be considered sexist.
“But the protagonists teamed with the feminine form of the final phrase in this campaign made it a clear-cut case.”
Reckitt Benckiser told The Independent yesterday that it was sorry for the campaign and that the advertisements had been changed.
In a statement, the company said that “at no time has it sought to discriminate against woman, or to produce sexist advertising”. It added that the company “defends gender equality in all areas”.
According to The Local news website, the company had also said that the original adverts were “designed to address the female audience who represent the majority buyers of the product”.
According to a “Better Life Index” compiled earlier this year by the OECD, Spain falls behind the OECD average when it comes to the number of women who work. While 51 per cent of Spanish women aged between 15 and 64 earn a living, this is below the OECD average of 58 per cent. The rate also falls below the 60 per cent of Spanish men in the same age bracket who have a paid job.
Spain goes to the polls in a knife-edge general election later this month, with the main four parties vying for votes. The leaders of the governing PP, the centre-left PSOE and two newcomers on the national stage, Ciudadanoes and Podemos, are all men.
Earlier this year, however, Spain’s two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona elected female mayors.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies