A television ad for a British bookmaker that asked viewers if they could spot which women were trans has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA said it received about 470 complaints, but only 92 of those fell under their remit to investigate because the majority followed the advert being watched online rather than on television.
Upholding the complaints, the ASA said: “We considered that the ad trivialised a highly complex issue and depicted a number of common negative stereotypes about trans people.
“We considered that by suggesting that trans women would look like men in drag, and that their gender could be speculated on as part of a game, the ad irresponsibly reinforced those negative stereotypes.
“And, particularly by framing the game in a way that involved a member of the public who had commented on Paddy Power’s Facebook page, the ad condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment.”
The advert, from bookmaker Paddy Power, was set at Ladies’ Day at the Cheltenham Festival, an annual horse racing fixture.†The ad remains online so you can judge its content for yourself:
The ad was was originally intended to run on BSkyB, Channel 4 and ESPN.†A campaign was launched to have those channels ditch the ad.
ESPN did pull the advertisement but BSkyB, part owned by the Murdochs, and Channel 4 refused to stop screening the ad, with Channel 4 saying it was policy to leave it “up to our viewers to make their own judgment about the adverts they have seen.”
Paddy Power has said that it feels it was the victim of a concerted campaign that overinflated protest against the ad, maintaining that it had sort the advice of one trans rights group before proceeding and therefore that the ad wasn’t broadly offensive.
The bookmaker said that the ad contained “adult humour directed to an adult audience” and that the complaints had come from an “organised campaign which overrepresented concern about the ad”.
Paddy Power added that it was “saddened” that some viewers were offended but pointed out that it had consulted the Beaumont Society, a UK transgender group, and Clearcast to “ensure the ad met with broadcasting and decency standards”.
The Beaumont Society said the script it saw did not include certain scenes used in the TV ad and that it was “not happy” with the manner in which some phrases such as “stallions” and “mares” were used.
Paddy Power said that the ad was still on its YouTube channel, which is registered in Ireland so does not fall under the ASA’s UK remit, and had been “liked” by the vast majority of viewers.
In banning the ad the ASA said that the trans community was incredibly broad and that the trivial guessing game was offensive.
Even accepting that Paddy Power was perhaps badly advised on this issue (and that is still of dispute), given that trans people must on a daily basis face the prospect of discrimination, taunts and even violence, any advert that encourages viewers to treat trans women as though they are curiosities to be gawked at and played games with is dehumanizing and, in this case, overtly sexualizing.
Image taken from video, no infringement intended.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.