A poster for Rated People, seen in September 2022, featured text stating, “Building Work. It’s a man’s game. Bit like football was”. Alongside was an image of a hand holding a drill. Beneath that, smaller text stated, “If you’ve got the skills, we’ve got the jobs”.
Eleven complainants, who believed the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by suggesting employment in the building industry was exclusive to men, challenged whether it breached the Code.
Rated People Ltd said the ad was one of several ads that were part of a campaign to encourage diversity into the trades profession. They said the intention of the ad itself was to highlight that just as football had traditionally been seen as a man’s game, the trades profession continued to be seen in that way. They said the aim of the campaign as a whole was intentionally designed to challenge that stereotype and change that mindset through their message of encouraging women into the trades, with the message that it was skills that were important, rather than gender.
They said that whilst the ad itself had an element of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour, it was intended to recognise the success of the England Women’s football team at the recent 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship. They said they used that to demonstrate that women could have success in a previously male dominated industry, and to illustrate that the same could also be true in the trades.
They provided a number of articles to demonstrate stereotypical views held about the trades. They also highlighted their ongoing campaigns and initiatives to champion diversity within the trades industry, challenge such stereotypes and encourage women to enter the trades profession.
Rated People also said they were aware of the varied response the ad had received and acknowledged suggestions that the execution of the ad could have been better. However, they considered that a significant proportion of people had understood the message and what it was designed to achieve.
JCDecaux said they did not consider that either the wording or image was offensive and therefore did not believe that it had breached the Code.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that were likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence. It also stated that particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of gender.
We recognised that the ad was part of a wider campaign made up of a number of ads, with the aim of improving diversity in the trades industry and challenging the associated stereotypical bias. However, because the ad was displayed in isolation, we assessed it on its merits alone.
We understood that there was a negative long-established stereotype that building work was a male profession. We considered that consumers were likely to understand the phrase “Building work. It’s a man’s game” to mean that building work was a profession that was carried out by men, and was not appropriate for women. The phrase was immediately followed by text stating, “Bit like football was”, which we acknowledged was intended to imply that, in football, women had successfully challenged a similar stereotype, as exemplified by the success of the recent Women’s European Championship – and that the stereotype around building work was being challenged in a similar way. We acknowledged that some consumers were likely to interpret the ad that way.
However, we considered that the claims in the ad were ambiguous, and that other consumers were likely to interpret the ad as presenting changing attitudes to football in a negative light, mourning the fact that football might no longer be considered a “man’s game”, and presenting building work as one area where women were still excluded, and should continue to be. We considered that the ad reinforced harmful gender stereotypes that both football and the trade industry should be for men only.
For these reasons, we concluded that the ad included a gender stereotype that was likely to cause harm and serious offence, and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and Offence) and 4.9 4.9 Marketing communications 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Rated People Ltd to ensure they did not present gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm and serious offence.