"Misogynistic and offensive" Sportsbet ad sanctioned

1 October 2019

The Australian Ad Standards authority’s Community Panel has ordered the discontinuation of an advertisement for bookmaker Sportsbet for featuring an “onegative stereotype,” of women in a Twitter advertisement for its mobile app.

The advertisement was found to have breached section 2.1 of the AANA Code of Ethics, which states that, “Advertising or Marketing Communication shall not portray people or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.” The advertisement was deemed to fit Ad Standards’ definition of vilification, which includes incitement of ridicule.

The ad featured a beauty pageant setting, in which one woman holds a mobile phone with the app’s logo displayed and says the line, “I personally believe that apps such, like, as Sportsbet that make it easier for people to use because…Apps,” after which a voiceover says, “The new iPhone app from Sportsbet, it’s foolproof” and the word “foolproof” appears on screen.

The advertisement attracted a complaint that described its content as “misogynistic and offensive to women.”

In its response to the complaint, Sportsbet said it did not believe the advertisement breached section 2.1 of the Code, arguing that the advertisement featured only an individual being foolish, rather than reinforcing discriminatory stereotypes about women.

“The Advertisement does not in any way depict material which discriminates or vilifies any individual or a group of people,” Sportsbet said. “Rather, it merely attempts to use satire and humor to convey the message that Sportsbet’s new app is easy and simple to use.

“As the community panel is aware, the advertisement is one of a series of Sportsbet advertisements which seek to depict a series of individuals doing silly or foolish things as a humorous way to illustrate that use of the app is ‘foolproof’. The characters in the advertisements are varied, and this advertisement features a beauty pageant contestant giving a particularly silly answer to a question from the host, which is a commonly parodied type of scene or setting.

"Clearly, none of the required elements of inequity, bigotry, intolerance, contempt or inciting hatred (among others) are present in the advertisement.”

The panel, however, disagreed. Citing a previous ruling against Charlottes Pass Alpine Resort in 2018 for content deemed to reinforce the stereotype of blonde women being unintelligent, the panel adjudged that the Sportsbet ad, “conveys the overall impression that women who enter beauty pageants are unintelligent, which is a negative stereotype.”

The panel also said that it must judge all advertisements individually, and cannot take into account whether they are part of a wider campaign.

The panel also examined whether the ad violated Section 2.2 of the Code, which states that “Advertising or Marketing Communication shall not employ sexual appeal: (a) where images of Minors, or people who appear to be Minors, are used; or (b) in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.”

However, the advertisement was found not to employ sexual appeal and so was not in violation of this section of the code.

In March, Sportsbet received a fine of AUS$10,000 (£5,350/€6,290/US$7,090) from authorities in New South Wales after being convicted advertising a referral bonus, which violates laws in the state.