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Top 10 Most Sexist Advertisements in the Last 3 Years

Companies have long released inappropriate advertisments, however one would think that sexism would have no place in the 21st century since with the conception of Facebook groups by Feminists in Turkey in 2012, aimed at mobilizing protests and marches against a nationwide abortion ban, feminism has blown up across all media platforms. Since then, a vast number of celebrities speaking out against sexism in the media since 2012, women have made considerable strides in terms of female empowerment. Keira Knightley, Ellen Page, and Cate Blanchett are among the A-List celebrities who have been using their notoriety to take a stand against industry sexism. 

See Also: The Lack of Ethics in Advertising

Unfortunately, some organizations seem to have misinterpreted the message, as they’ve continued to release advertising campaigns littered with chauvinistic themes and sexist undertones. Here are ten of the most sexist marketing campaigns that have surfaced since 2012.

1. Bic for Her

“A gel pen essentially for women,” reads the advertisement on the Bic website. A commercial released by the company in 2012 featured a young girl turning down "boy" pens and opting for a writing tool more suitable to her needs.  The pen boasts features like “thin barrel to fit a women’s hand.” The available colours are pink and purple, no doubt to suit a woman’s needs. Naturally, the product received a slew of facetious reviews from women poking fun at the ridiculous intentions of the company. 

One review read: “These pens actually make me feel liberated! At last my delicate feminine needs and tastes are being considered!” 

A spokeswoman for the company responded to the sarcastic reviews, saying, “It is great to see people having fun with the product and we’re delighted to have brought a bit of much-needed glamour to stationary cupboards everywhere.” Finally, women’s prayers have been answered. Thank you, Bic. 

2. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is no stranger to inappropriately portraying women in their ads. Consequently, the company has made a name for themselves in a very negative way. What may surprise you is that the person behind all of these chauvinistic advertisements is a woman: Barb Rechterman. 

In response to GoDaddy’s 2012 Superbowl Ad depicting Jillian Michaels and Danica Patrick using body paint to turn a naked woman into a walking ad for GoDaddy, Rechterman says she doesn’t believe GoDaddy commercials are targeted exclusively towards men. She maintains that GoDaddy’s target audience is “everybody”. 

3. Huggies

At least this ad offers some sense of equality; men can be equally as stereotyped in the media as women. The 2012, Huggies’ "Put Them to The Dad Test" ad very clearly implies that fathers are ’useless idiots’, showing that Huggies can hold their own against fathers who are shown neglecting their babies and watching sports while their wives are out at the salon. 

Not surprisingly, the Internet responded with a petition called “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies.” Huggies subsequently removed the ad, apologized, and released a new advertisement attempting to depict fathers in a new light. 

4. Swiffer

Cultural icon Rosie the Riveter represents women in the 1940s that worked in factories in place of men who left to join the military. We are quite confident that housework wasn’t on their mind at the time. 

In 2013, Swiffer Sweeper decided to co-opt the feminist symbol in order to help them sell their new mop. Oddly enough, they chose to release the ad shortly after a census was released, revealing that working moms in American families are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households. Bold move, Swiffer.

5. TrueCar

An advertisement released by TrueCar in 2013 featured several women discussing their concerns about purchasing a new car. The ad explained that, thanks to TrueCar, women can now research pricing and negotiate a good deal by themselves without having to “bring a dude”. 

After a serious amount of criticism, the company released the following statement: 

“Regardless of race or gender, being a more informed car buyer benefits consumers. TrueCar supplies a hassle-free experience for both men and women by providing car-buying information the public can’t get elsewhere."

“This particular ad is pro-consumer and pro-women. It was developed by our creative director, who is a woman, and it addresses a real consumer issue in the marketplace.”

6. Xbox One

With the release of the Xbox One in 2013, Microsoft released an ad that featured a drafted letter intended for gamers to manipulate and send along to their significant others in order to acquire the new gaming console without any backlash from the female in their lives. Part of the pre-written letter reads: “You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us.” The letter goes on to say “We can talk on Skype with your favourite sister whom, of course, I love dearly.” 

The ad implies that all gamers are men that are romantically involved with video game-hating women with a yarn obsession and must resort to manipulation and trickery in order to be ‘allowed’ to play Xbox One. While it is understandable that the company is trying to appeal to the non-gamer consumer, they couldn’t have chosen a worse way to do so. 

7. Belvedere Vodka

While Belvedere claims that its vodka “goes down smoothly”, its 2012 advertisement did not. The ad showing a terrified woman being unwantedly held by a guy seemed to make light of a serious and growing problem; sexual abuse. Outrage sprang up as soon as the ad was released with followers accusing the company of promoting rape culture. An apology was released from the company; however, consumers were less than satisfied. 

“The post is absolutely inconsistent with our values and beliefs and in addition we are committed to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” wrote Belvedere’s senior vice president of global marketing on the company’s Facebook page. 

Even though the ad was removed by the company within an hour of being posted, it did not stop over 925,000 social media users from seeing it. Needless to say, many have sworn off the product.

8. Beats by Dre

“Radio Shack comes off like an unhip, balding, middle-aged dude desperately trying to prove he’s down with the kids – and failing badly,” said AdWeek about the Beats By Dr. Dre Pill wireless speaker advertisement released in 2013. 

The advertisement features the scantily clad stars of Robin Thicke’s controversial music video for Blurred Lines holding the phallic-shaped speaker in a sexual nature. The ad in no way describes the quality of the product; it simply objectifies women through the behaviour of the models while repeating the lyrics “I know you want it”. The company maintains that the advertisement was not intended to offend or encourage inappropriate stereotypes.

9. Heineken

During the 2014 European Cup, Heineken cleverly – or so they thought – teamed up with Shoestock to offer a 50 percent discount to consumers in an effort to keep girlfriends and wives of football watchers occupied. The ad features a voice-over stating that men will be able to watch the game with their friends “without ditching the wife, because this time she’ll be ditching you”.

Somebody forgot to inform Heineken’s creative director that many women drink beer and watch football as well. 

Sadly, this isn’t the only time Heineken has alienated its female consumers. In 2007, a commercial was aired depicting a robotic, flapper-style woman producing a mini keg from her stomach.  Two years later, the company released a commercial featuring a group of men excited over a walk-in fridge while a group of women fussed over a walk-in closet.

The company responded to backlash about the 2014 advertisement by saying that the ad “in no way alludes to male chauvinism. It’s an idea that plays with the different interests that may exist among couples.” 


10. Superior Bikes

One would think that in 2015, companies would know better than to create products specifically for women, so as to imply that we are inferior and incapable of using products unless they are designed to ‘suit our needs’. 

Superior Bikes has released a line of mountain bikes for women that are light, maneuverable, and stylish. The ad reads “Female cyclists do not generally need to push their limits, race against time and increase their adrenaline when riding rough downhill trails. They just want to enjoy the time spent in nature on the bike, and their expectations from the bike are completely different than men’s.” 

Naturally, the cycling community had a few choice words for the company. 

One woman took to Superior Bike’s Facebook page to post, “You’re kidding me right? Do I look like I’m worried about mounting and dismounting safely at any time? Bad enough your marketing team thought up this sexist and misogynistic spiel about your MODO collection, but who was the genius that approved it? Geezus.” 

Predictably, Superior Bikes has yet to comment on the fiasco. 

See Also: How to Advertise in 2015

Hopefully, these companies have learned a valuable lesson, but, unfortunately, it came at a price. In the future, we can only hope that their marketing teams will remember that while sex sells, sexism doesn’t.

Do you know of any other sexist media ads? Then let us know in the comments box below.

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