Watchdog upholds complaint against radio ad that implied husbands are “pests”

Article by Dominic Powell /
Smart Company /
December 23, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has upheld a complaint against a radio advertisement from a Perth business that it found singles out husbands and implies they are “pests”.

The advertisement came from pest removal business Allpest, and ran on radio stations in the region.

According to the case report, the advertisement features a customer asking about Allpest’s pest control services, enquiring about the types of pests they remove.

The customer then asks “What about my husband?” to which the voice over states Allpest “don’t do husbands”, but will get rid of any other sort of problem.

A complaint to the board said the advertisement was “gender stereotyping”.

“Would it be any more or less acceptable if the caller asked this company if “they did wives” as opposed to husbands. I suspect it most certainly would not be,” the complainant said.

In a response to the complainant, Allpest stated it did not believe the advertisement to be contravening any section of the AANA Code of Ethics.

“Overall the advert is a light-hearted and jovial theme that Allpest has been using for over 10 years. It’s very well received by the whole community with customers and members of the public of both sexes often making comments and repeating the joke when introducing themselves on the phone or at their front doors,” the company said.

“There has also been three similar complaints in the past and all times the Advertising Standards Bureau has dismissed the complaint after the investigation.”

However, the board upheld the complaint on the basis it felt “this advertisement did discriminate against and vilify husbands on the basis of gender”. The board likened its finding to a 2015 decision against an Ashley Madison advertisement, which was found to have discriminated against wives as a group.

“Consistent with the previous determination the Board considered that this statement singles out husbands as a group of people and implies that they are pests and need to be gotten rid of,” the determination read.

In response to Allpest’s comments that complaints about previous versions of the advertisement had been dismissed, the board noted it believed community standards to have changed.

“The Board noted that it had previously dismissed similar advertisements from this advertiser in 2005 and 2010, however, the majority of the Board felt that community standards in this area have changed, and that this style of humour was no longer acceptable,” the board stated.

In a response to the determination, Allpest said it is “very disappointed” with the board on its decision, and noted the advertising campaign had already ended.

“The decision is also inconsistent with previous determinations of the Board as Allpest has had similar cases in the past all rejected which indicates the “feel” the Board has on community standards is misguided and their decision was more based on the other case rather on its individual merits,” the company said.

“Our campaign using this radio ad has already ended and thus we are not choosing to take the matter further but are extremely confident that if an Independent Review was conducted it would find the decision to be reversed.”

Difficulties surrounding advertising and gender

There are a number of cases that have been brought before the ad standards board about gender stereotyping, but often complaints are around discriminating against women rather than men. Experts have told SmartCompany throughout this year that advertisers should be increasingly wary of who is buying their product.

In October, advertising expert and Melbourne University lecturer Lauren Rosewarne told SmartCompany it is astonishing that some advertisers have “so little awareness” on who purchases the products they sell.

“It’s extraordinary that advertisers have so little awareness that not only do women buy products but that in the context of domestic purchase, they actually make the lion’s share of purchases,” Rosewarne said.

“Therefore, the sexism aside, it is simply bad business for advertisers to advertise this way.”

To prevent problems, director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney advises businesses to test advertisements with research groups before they go to air.

“When creating advertising campaigns, companies need to consider their target audience, and then every other stakeholder that can have a view of the ad,” Reaney told SmartCompany in February.

“Test market campaigns with a select group in order to identify various perceptions.”

SmartCompany contacted Allpest but did not receive a response prior to publication.