A TV ad for Strive Footwear, seen on 12 May and 7 June 2021, featured a male podiatrist dressed in a white lab coat who stated, "Podiatrists know that Strive's innovative footwear helps relieve pain from fallen arches". The podiatrist looked surprised when a woman in a blue dress suddenly appeared alongside him and stated, "And I know they make my feet happy". The podiatrist picked up a shoe and stated, "They can help with foot problems like plantar fasciitis". The woman quickly took the shoe from him and replied, "And I recommend them for friends struggling with foot pain". A voiceover then stated, "Strive's unique foot bed technology follows the natural curves of the foot, improving weight distribution and posture". Finally, the woman appeared on screen again and stated, "And I think they look great".
The complainants, who believed that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting a man as authoritative and knowledgeable and a woman as shallow and frivolous, challenged whether it breached the Code.
International Footcare Ltd t/a Strive Footwear said that they did not believe the ad depicted any gender stereotypes – the ad was for women’s shoes, so they had cast a woman as the brand spokesperson. They said the dryness of the statements delivered by the man in the ad needed to be distinct from those put forward by the woman, who had a different perspective and delivery.
Clearcast said that the purpose of the casting – with a woman as the consumer, and a man as the podiatrist – was to highlight the different benefits of the advertised products from two different points of view; the genders of the podiatrist and consumer in the ad were therefore incidental to its message. They said that in their view, the consumer was not being silly, shallow or simplistic, but was instead sharing her view on the product as a satisfied consumer. The stylish appearance of the products and helping with foot pain were just two of the reasons that she was shown as being satisfied with her purchase.
Clearcast said the ad did not suggest that any of the stereotypical characteristics raised by the complainants were always uniquely associated with one gender, the only options available to one gender, or never carried out or displayed by another gender. To that end, the ad made no suggestion that frivolity or shallowness was uniquely associated with the consumer’s gender. Additionally, there was no suggestion that being assertive or knowledgeable on the subject of podiatry was uniquely associated with the podiatrist’s gender.
The BCAP Code stated “Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. The relevant joint CAP and BCAP Advertising Guidance (the Guidance) stated that gender-stereotypical characteristics included occupations or positions and also attributes or behaviours usually associated with a specific gender. It added that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles, but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender; were the only options available to one gender; or were never carried out or displayed by another gender.
The ASA considered the scenario presented in the ad. The ad featured a man, wearing a lab coat, speaking in a dry tone, using jargon, and talking about the technicalities of the shoes being advertised, using medical terminology and demonstrating medical knowledge. The ad also featured a woman, making enthusiastic observations about the shoes’ look and comfort.
We considered that the scenario depicted was predicated on the juxtaposition between the podiatrist character, whose lab coat and technical pronouncements about the shoes gave the impression of a knowledgeable, authoritative figure, and a consumer, who used less technical language in her statements, focused on the look and feel of the product, and had an air of levity. Viewers were likely to understand that the two characters offered two different perspectives on the product, both of which had value. We did not consider that the ad suggested that the woman was shallow or frivolous, but rather that she was translating the comments made by the podiatrist into statements that would have more meaning for a layperson and also commenting on the appearance of the shoes. Furthermore, there was only one person of each gender featured in the ad, and the message conveyed by the scenario was not dependent on the podiatrist role being played by a man. We considered that the ad did not suggest that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender; were the only options available to one gender; or were never carried or displayed by another gender.
Therefore we did not consider that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes and we concluded that it did not breach the Code.
The ad was investigated under BCAP Code rule
Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence?” (Harm and offence), but was not found in breach.
No further action necessary.