DECISION by lonyoo

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                                       DECISION

                                    Meeting 12 August 2003


Complaint 03/176

                      Complainant: K. Howie
                      Advertisement: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand


Complaint: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand newspaper advertisement showed the
backview of three graduating students. The headline said "Three Degree Programmes to fit
any lifestyle". Text indicated that one of the students who was clearly a young woman, had
completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, another a Bachelor of Business degree and the third
student, who was clearly a young man, a Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree.

A tagline said: "Do it your way".


The Complainant said: "I am very concerned and somewhat offended, at the enclosed
advertisement that I have seen in the Herald and in other magazines. In my opinion it is
sexist.

It is difficult enough to counteract stereotyping in our society, let alone when an educational
institution stereotypes so overtly, not only in the pictures but also in the degrees each gender
might take.

I teach Health and as part of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum we talk about
discrimination and stereotyping and I could use this advertisement to illustrate exactly what I
mean!

In anticipation of your response and the withdrawal of this advertisement."


The Chairman ruled that the following provision was relevant:

Code for People in Advertising

Basic Principle 4: Stereotypes may be used to simplify the process of communication in
relation to both the product offered and the intended consumer. However, advertisements
should not use stereotypes in the portrayal of the role, character and behaviour of groups of
people in society which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is
reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or
ridicule.
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The Advertiser said:

"Thank you for your letter of 24 June 2003 advising of K. Howie‟s complaint.

I note it is suggested that the advertisements complained about promote stereotyping not
only “in the pictures but also in the degrees each gender might take”.

I note your suggestion that principle 4 of the Code for People in Advertising is relevant.

To breach that principle it appears that not only must “stereotypes” be used but the use of
stereotypes “is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt,
abuse or ridicule”.

Perhaps it can be argued that the female Bachelor of Arts student having childcare
responsibilities is a stereotype but it is also a reality. The Polytechnic has many adult
students who juggle childcare with study and sometimes work outside the home as well.

It is one of the strengths of the Polytechnic and distance education that students can study at
their own pace and place, and balance conflicting responsibilities whilst studying.

It appears from K. Howie‟s letter that she has assumed the other two students shown in the
advertisement are male. In fact the Bachelor of Business student is a woman.

The only man in the advertisement is the Bachelor of Applied Science student. That
particular degree is “stereotypically” more female dominated with majors such as
Psychology and Information & Library Studies.

Taking into account generally prevailing community standards, it is hard to see how having
two women and one man in an advertisement publicising the Polytechnic‟s degrees is
reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or
ridicule.

The key message the advertisement attempts to convey is that by studying at the
Polytechnic, a student (whether male or female) can enrol in a well respected programme
that gives the student the flexibility to fit study around their lifestyle which may include
being a working parent, balancing childcare with study, balancing work and study, and/or
balancing study with leisure activities.

We believe the message is a very positive one, and most unlikely to cause serious or
widespread offence to New Zealanders.

In conclusion, we do not believe the Code for People in Advertising has been breached."

The agency, Red Rocks Advertising, said:

"I respond on behalf of Redrocks Advertising only.
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I do appreciate the concern expressed by K. Howie. Whilst she does not state it specifically, I
am assuming her issue is with the way in which we have portrayed women in this ad. And I
agree that her point may have some merit if it were not for the fact that two out of the three
characters in the advert are women.

I am assuming that K. Howie has seen the middle person in the ad as a man because of the
short hair cut. In fact this is a woman with short dark hair, and as such you can see that we
have in fact very favourably positioned women as leaders in tertiary education opportunities.

Whilst it is true that we have one female Bachelor of Arts student shown juggling family with
study (as a working mother with a B.A. I can assure K. Howie that for many successful
women today this is reality, not stereotype), we also have a woman with a bottle of
champagne studying a Bachelor of Business.

The only man in the ad is positioned against The Bachelor of Applied Science, which is
„stereotypically‟ more female dominated with majors in topics such as Psychology and
Information & Library Studies. Admittedly he is skiing rather than knitting, but I am not
aware of any male/female stereotyping around skiing as a hobby.

I‟m sure you‟ll agree that the clarity provided in this letter dismisses any possibility of
stereotyping as it is described in the Advertising Codes of Practise.

Short of only using women with long blond hair in ads to be certain of no confusion (and
risking stereotyping of another nature entirely!) I can see of no reason why this ad should be
altered or withdrawn."



The media, The New Zealand Herald, said:

"Thank you for your letter dated 24 June 2003.

Total Media has advised that since the running of the advertisement in question, the number
of public complaints they have received has forced them to review their campaign plans.
Subsequently, all future bookings for the advertisement in question have been cancelled and
will therefore not be running again.

From our point of view, Total Media have been very proactive in making what we consider to
be the correct decision.

I hope the above information helps."

Deliberation


The Complaints Board perused the relevant correspondence and viewed the Open
Polytechnic of New Zealand print advertisement. It noted the Complainant was of the view
that the advertisement contained stereotypical images which were sexist and offensive. The
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Board also noted that due to the number of complaints received, the media placement
agency, Total Media, had been "forced to review their campaign plans" and The New
Zealand Herald had cancelled bookings for future placements of the advertisement.

The Chairman directed the Board to consider the Complaint with reference to Basic
Principle 4 of the Code for People in Advertising.

Taking the submissions received into account, the Complaints Board noted that the
advertiser and agency had given due consideration to the gender images in the
advertisement. It noted that the images had been employed to convey the message that a
student, whether male or female, could enroll in a degree at the Open Polytech of New
Zealand, and it would allow flexibility for them to fit their study around their lifestyle which
may include parental duties, work obligations and/or leisure activities.

The Board was of the view that the stereotype which had been employed to simplify the
process of communication, the young female Batchelor of Arts graduate with children in her
hood, was an acceptable image which reflected the circumstances of many young students in
society, particularly female students. The Board was unanimously of the view that that
image, and the other two images contained in the advertisement, which showed the reversal
of the general study trends, would not be likely to cause either serious or widespread
offence, taking into account generally prevailing community standards. Accordingly, in the
Board's view, the advertisement did not effect a breach of Basic Principle 4 of the Code for
People in Advertising.

The Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.


Decision: Complaint Not Upheld

								
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