Benetton says sorry for ‘No girls allowed’ advert

Benetton has joined the ranks of companies forced to apologise for ill-considered adverts. The advert in question was for boys' clothes, and featured three boys wearing the chain's clothes, and the words "Sorry! No girls allowed!"

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People took to social media to complain about what they felt was a sexist approach to selling clothes. Many expressed disappointment at the clothing company that in the past has featured ads that encourage LGBTQ inclusivity and cultural diversity. Among the comments was one that read: "Girls not allowed! What year is this?!"

However, others felt the reaction was unnecessary, with one commenting: "This is a harmless ad that is poking fun at how boys at that age call girls yucky, nothing more, nothing less. People need to stop making everything something to fight about!"

The brand kept the post online but issued an apology, saying: "We're very sorry that our message struck the wrong chord with some of you."

Not the first

This isn't the first time that a company has got into hot water for gender-specific adverts for boys and girls. Back in 2013, Clarks was in the frame for gender specific advertising in store. On one side of the window in blue text it said: 'Because boys test their shoes to destruction, so do we' and on the other side in pink it said: "Because girls love comfort and style, we design both into our shoes." The brand was subsequently persuaded to change the displays.

In fact in 2015, when the Let Toys Be Toys campaign analysed children's adverts, they found they were overwhelmingly sexist and reinforced 'narrow and limiting' gender stereotypes. Adverts for vehicles, action figures and construction sets featured boys being active and 'aggressive', while girls appeared in adverts for dolls and more glamorous toys - and were only active when dancing.

The campaign has been effective in encouraging stores from Marks & Spencer to Toys R Us to drop gender-based marketing. However, clearly the stereotypes endure.

So what do you think? Is this damaging children perceptions and limiting their ambitions, or is this a lot of fuss over nothing? Let us know in the comments.

Advertising's most sexist ads
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Advertising's most sexist ads

"A woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke". Only a woman? Feminists would take issue at the "only" adverb, and the idea that any human being of either gender is inferior to a cancer-inducing product from Benson & Hedges.

Don't blame the ad men completely. That ad tag line is actually the evil work of one Rudyard Kipling. From a poem he penned called "The Bethrothed".

Now this is a creepy ad: "I have created a playground for men's hands." Armando Ghedini created wigs "for other men who adore women". This wig was also wash'n'wear. Nice.

The thoughtful signor Ghedini had also designed a wig to be combed in any direction, "for men to tousle". Men, he said, become "inspired" by women who wore it and women, Ghedini added, were grateful.

VW advertising has often been self-deprecating and clever. In 1960s America their ads were phenomenally successful, persuading thousands of Americans to ditch large thirsty home-made offerings for the company's cramped, noisy but economical Beetle.

Their ads flattered the intelligence of the American middle class. But this ad depicing a bashed-up VW bug? "Sooner or later your wife will drive home one of the best reasons for owning a Volkswagen". Not their female customers, clearly. What were they thinking?

Similarly, Easyjet also thought that a pair of ample breasts would be enough to help ticket sales. This ad dates back to 2003 when George Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair were getting very animated about those hard-to-find weapons of mass destruction.

This particular ad garnered around 200 complaints to the Advertising Council and also escaped any ticking off. And plenty of publicity of course. It all worked out beautifully for Easyjet. Tits away, Stelios.

Car manufacturers and cigarette companies are regular sexist offenders. Here Italian typewriter maker Olivetti peddles the idea that young women are passive, servants ready to transcribe boardroom minutes at a moment's notice.

Where are Olivetti now in the global brand firmament?. Join the Olivetti girls. At ease, ladies, please.

Melon distributor F.H.Hogue of California thought his melons were pretty buxom and wanted to spread the word. Ho-ho, Mr Hogue.

There are plenty more examples and we'll be looking at more anther time. In the meantime let's leave with a woman knowing exactly where she should be (in the home, honey).

Here is a 1970s shoe ad from a brand called Weyenberg. You may find it hard to track down a Weyenberg shoe today however.

However, not all car makers followed such a well-worn patronising path. Back in the 1970s Honda in the US reversed the idea that women always needed cars with simple, easy-to-drive automatic gearboxes.

Despite offering both a manual and auto gearbox, neither was "a women's car" Honda stated firmly. Note the jaunty hat and jeans. A stab at selling to the US lesbian community? Or an independent straight girl fed up with stereotypes. Good for Honda.


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