By: Ananya Saha
UK’s Advertising Standards Authority to adopt tougher stance
Ads for Gap’s kids brand featuring a young boy, called “the Little Scholar”, while the girl featured in the ad is labelled “the Social Butterfly”, or Protein World’s Beach Body Ready campaign might not see the light of the day after new recommendations from UK’s Advertising Standards Authority come into force. Ads mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes, objectification and inappropriate sexualisation might soon get a rap from ASA.
Its new report Depictions, Perceptions and Harm says that commercials featuring gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm by contributing to unequal gender outcomes, although ‘advertising is understood to be only one of many different factors that contribute, to a greater or lesser extent, to unequal gender outcomes’. “Responding to the evidence, our sister body, CAP — the authors of the UK Advertising Codes — will develop new standards on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics. We will then administer and enforce those standards. CAP will also use the evidence in the report to clarify standards that reflect our existing position on ads that objectify or inappropriately sexualise people or suggest it is acceptable to be unhealthily-thin,” said the statement from ASA. The report was conducted with research firm Gfk.
Guy Parker, chief executive, ASA, said, “Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people. While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”
The report cited several ads that received complaints from viewers, including baby formula Aptamil’s ad that shows a girl growing up to be a ballerina and boys becoming engineers and rock climbers. While the standards authority will not impose fines, but broadcasters are bound by the terms of their licenses to comply with its rulings. CAP aims to report its progress before the end of 2017, and will deliver training and advice on the new standards before the new regulations come into force in 2018.
Audi gets pulled over in China
It seems like 2017 will be remembered as the year of infamous commercials. First, it was the Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner that was pulled off the air within 24 hours of being launched, then it was Nivea’s White is Purity, Dove’s bottle in different body shapes, while McDonald’s and Skittles also withdrew their umbilical cord and deceased dad ads, respectively. The recent one to fuel the controversy is Audi.
The German automaker, from the house of Volkswagen Group, has apologised and retracted its ad that drew ire from all corners on being sexist. The Chinese-language ad for Audi’s used-car division shows a mother-in-law crashing the wedding and inspecting the bride at the altar, much like how a piece of livestock is examined. The older woman then checks and pinches the bride’s nose, pulls her ears, much to the young woman’s annoyance. She even pries her mouth to check the bride’s teeth, thus, likening the bride to a used car, before her son pulls her off the bride. The wedding ceremony continues only after the mother gives a go-ahead. The ad ends with an Audi driving down a highway with the voiceover saying: ‘an important decision must be made carefully’. Viewers are then asked to visit the brand’s second-hand car website.
“The lack of consideration…caused the public to view the advertisement as disrespectful to women. We hereby extend our most sincere apology,” the used-car unit said. Audi AG’s statement said that the company “deeply regrets” any offense caused by the ad, which “does not correspond to the values of our company in any way”. The ad not only appeared online, but also in movie theatres. “The responsible department of the joint venture has arranged a thorough investigation of the internal control and coordination processes so that an incident like this can be excluded in the future,” the company said. In China, the automobile retails through its Chinese partner FAW Group.
Last year, Chinese detergent brand Qiaobi’s racist ad that depicted a black man entering a washing machine and coming out white also sparked controversy. Given that Audi sales in China were down by 15% in the first half of 2017, the recent ad goof-up might backfire.
Facebook looks to monetise through its Messenger app, across markets
Facebook Messenger, which recently reached the two billion-user mark, is set to introduce ads within the app. Advertisers will be able to showcase their ads in the main inbox tab between chat threads, and not within conversations. The product was tested earlier this year in two markets — Australia and Thailand. The feature will be rolled out slowly across markets, starting with the US.
The announcement comes at a time when Facebook has revealed that it is about to reach the limit of ads that can be integrated into its News Feed. Hence, monetisation becomes more important for the social networking company. The company also hopes that more businesses would opt for its messenger app to reach their customers on mobile and for traditional ads. After the introduction of ads in Facebook Messenger, only WhatsApp from FB’s stable remains the one that does not monetise through ads.
Users who will be clicking on sponsored ads will be taken to the advertiser’s website or to a chat window to interact directly with the brand. While users can opt to temporarily hide specific ads on the app, they will not be able to block them completely. Currently, mobile contributes 85% to FB’s revenues, and the company is exploring other monetisation opportunities. Facebook had started testing sponsored messages from brands in April, 2016.
Siri comes to The Rock’s rescue
Apple’s recent marketing effort features Dwayne Johnson and none other than Apple’s favourite Siri. In the tasks that the star cannot possibly accomplish by himself, he seeks help from Apple’s voice-based assistant. The Rock x Siri Dominate The Day sees Johnson use Siri in different situations from travelling to space to hailing a car in the almost four-minute long film. The actor flies to Rome on a jet to restore the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, hail a Lyft ride, take a selfie in space, designing his fashion range all with the help of Siri on his iPhone 7 — while he’s in the middle of shooting his latest movie. The actor created buzz on social media a day before the commercial was launched on Apple’s YouTube channel. The video was accompanied with a statement from Apple saying, “You should never, ever, under any circumstances, underestimate how much Dwayne Johnson can get done in a day with Siri. Follow the world’s busiest actor and Siri as they dominate the day.”
Johnson is the latest name to join Apple’s marketing efforts, which have previously featured starts like Drake, Taylor Swift, Michael B Jordan, Kobe Bryant, John Malkovich and many more. Siri is currently facing tough competition from Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant in the marketplace, and the recent ad featuring the actor might just get it the required attention as Apple gets set to launch HomePod. Siri will be the key ingredient of HomePod.
“I partnered with Apple to make the biggest, coolest, sexiest, craziest, dopest, most over the top, funnest movie ever made. And I have the greatest co-star of all time, Siri,” wrote Johnson. He also teased the ad film’s launch with a poster of the movie. The aim is to highlight the things Siri can do — fix schedules, read emails, check the weather, search for photos, send text messages, make FaceTime calls, etc.
Men more responsive to online ads
New York-based stock photography website Shutterstock has revealed through its eye-tracking study that men are more responsive to online ads than women. Males were found looking at the ads for 0.4 seconds longer than females — 0.9 seconds and 0.5 seconds, respectively. Males noticed a third of the ads while females looked only at a quarter of them. Also, men tend to have longer engagement with image-led online ads than women, revealed the research.
The study, carried out by Lumen, found that image-led commercials featuring kids engaged more parents. People with children viewed 25% of ads for an average of 1.3 seconds, compared to 22% and 0.8 seconds of people without children. Similarly, images of an elderly couple were viewed more by people aged over 55. Data also showed that marketers selecting the correct images can double the amount of time that online ads are viewed on desktop.
The said study, conducted in two phases, tracked eye movements of individuals to measure engagement. The top-performing ad got viewed for 1.4 seconds, compared to a benchmark dwell time of 0.7 seconds.