Is the Advertising Standards Agency a tad Man Hatey?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the self-regulatory organisation (SRO) of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom. Its role is to “regulate the content of advertisements and direct marketing by investigating complaints and deciding whether the advertising complies with its advertising standards codes.

The ASA is not funded by the British government, but by a levy on the advertising industry.

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Is the ASA a tad man hatey?

There is certainly an argument that us blokes can very often be the butt of the advertiser’s joke but in fairness, I know very little about the ASA’s work or judgements and expect it’s very hard to keep all of it’s stakeholders happy all of the time.

Even so, and even though they are ‘currently monitoring‘ the public’s response to the Home Office’s Disrespect No Body advert, their findings to date are at least worth further consideration.

Like quite a few others EYEwrote to the ASA to complain about the tax payer funded advert who’s key target audience is children between the age of 12 to 18.

It turned out that by the time I raised it they had received a number of complaints and it had already been fast tracked to the ASA Council for consideration.

While Council appreciated that some viewers may have found the ad to be biased and therefore distasteful, they concluded that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, to be seen as sexist, or to mislead consumers about the likelihood that abusers would be of a particular gender. ASA

Which is a curious finding given that the majority of people who have taken the time to post on the campaign’s hashtag did so specifically to express their opinion that the advert’s message was sexist.

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EYEis not sure how we’re defining ‘widespread offence’ these days but so far almost a thousand people have signed a petition of complaint to Parliament.

Not that the number of complainants is necessarily an essential criteria as far as the guidance is concerned but in 2009 the ASA banned an Israeli tourism poster following 444 complaints so I guess that’s some sort of yardstick to consider.

But the thing I found most curious about their finding is that they don’t think that it’s message is likely ‘to mislead consumers about the likelihood that abusers would be of a particular gender’.

EYEguess this final judgement could be interpreted two ways and either way it strikes me as an odd conclusion.

If the Council are saying that it is unlikely ‘to mislead consumers about the likelihood that abusers would be of a particular gender‘ because the likelihood is that abusers will be of a particular gender (i.e male) then they probably haven’t read page 1 of the the classroom discussion Guide that accompanies the advert.

This states that relationship abuse among young people is shockingly prevalent and this must be addressed because research shows that: two-thirds of the girls and a third of the boys reported experiencing emotional violence, most often controlling behaviour and a quarter of both girls and boys reported instigating partner control in their relationships.

So based on the primary research that informs the campaign you’d expect the advert to promote a message that acknowledges that both girls and boys are capable of instigating partner control in their relationships.

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On the other hand, if the Council are saying that it is unlikely ‘to mislead consumers about the likelihood that abusers would be of a particular gender‘ because they believe that an advert presenting five scenarios where heterosexual males perpetrate abuse against heterosexual female victims is unlikely to lead the viewer to conclude that that abusers will be of a particular gender (i.e male) then they probably haven’t read page 4 of the classroom discussion Guide that accompanies the advert.

This states that the advert intentionally focuses on male characters as abusers and female characters as victims because evidence consistently shows that most abuse in relationships is committed by males.

This is based on CPS data showing that 92% of adult defendants in domestic abuse cases are male although clearly it is contradicted by the more relevant data established for the 12 to 18 target demographic.

But even if we ignore that fact it is widely understood that prosecuted incidents of partner abuse represent the tip of the iceberg and the Home Office  estimate that 6.7 million people will have experienced some form of abuse since the age of 16. By gender this breaks down to an estimated 4.5 million female and 2.2 million male victims.

Or in other words for every three victims of partner abuse one will be male.

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EYEhas asked the ASA for clarification and will update this post if / when I get a response.

Next | UK Strategy for Ending Violence against Women and Girls

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