PC Specialist ad banned for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes

"... the ad repeatedly cut to images of only men."

An advert for a bespoke PC retailer was banned for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes of women.

The TV ad, below, for UK retailer PC Specialist, begins with a computer exploding, then shows three men getting excited over using a PC Specialist PC for gaming, making music and coding.

There's a male voiceover throughout: "It's the beginning of the end," he says. "The end of following. It's the start of freedom, individuality, choice. It's an uprising. An insurgence. For the players, the gamers, the 'I'll sleep laters', the creators, the editors, the music makers. The techies, the coders, the illustrators. Bespoke, customised, like no other. From the specialists for the specialists. PC Specialist."

The Advertising Standards Authority received eight complaints from people who said the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting men in roles that were stereotypically male, and implied it was only men who were interested in technology and computers.

PC Specialist responded to the watchdog to say its customer base was 87.5 per cent male, aged between 15 and 35 years, and "their product, branding and service had been developed for and aimed at that target audience and the characters in the ad therefore represented a cross-section of the PC Specialist core customer base".

"PC Specialist said the characters looked into the camera as though they were using a PC Specialist machine," the ASA continued. "They did not believe they represented negative stereotypes and were playing the roles of entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers and hard workers.

"They considered there was no comparison between men and women in the ad and the ad did not imply that women were not interested in computers. They said the ad did not juxtapose men using computers with women not using computers, nor did the ad explicitly state that women did not use computers or that the service was unsuitable for them."

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Image credit - Campaign.

Despite this, the ASA upheld the complaint, saying the ad broke new rules introduced last June that mean companies can no longer promote gender stereotypes with their commercials.

"... the ad repeatedly cut to images of only men, who were both prominent and central to the ad's message of opportunity and excellence across multiple desirable career paths," the ASA concluded.

"We therefore considered that the ad implied that excellence in those roles and fields would be seen as the preserve of men. Because of that, we considered that the ad went further than just featuring a cross-section of the advertiser's core customer base and implied that only men could excel in those roles."

PC Specialist has now pulled the advert.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

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Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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