A Berlei advertisement featuring “talking bras” has been cleared of any wrongdoing, following complaints it had breached advertising standards around gender discrimination.
Ad Standards, the national body for self-regulation of advertising standards and complaints, began investigating a television commercial made by clothes manufacturer Hanes Brands for Berlei-branded bras, in which women are shown in an office before their bras begin “talking” to each other, while the bra of another woman who enters the scene does not speak.
It attracted complaints suggesting that the commercial was “demeaning” and “degrading” to women.
The body quoted one complainant as stating, “I am very offended that on international womens [sic] day, this company, being largely manufacturers of womens [sic] clothing, depict[s] women in a professional setting with ‘talking bras’”.
“This depiction was not well thought through and is demeaning and degrading to professional women. Men would never be depicted in this ridiculous manner,” the complaint continued.
“The advertisement depicts poor messages about young women that can be misinterpreted by young men. That women are thinking about bras in a professional meeting has significant negative implications. Precisely, that young professional women are a source of ridicule due to gender differences.”
In its defence, Hanes Brands submitted that it did not consider the commercial was in breach of advertising standards.
“Berlei aims to design bras for all occasions and all women, whatever she prefers. Everything Berlei creates is thoughtfully designed to make women feel comfortable and confident,” it said.
“In making this advertisement for Berlei’s new T-Shirt bra UnderState, the intention was to show those moments when a woman doesn’t want her bra to do the talking or take all the attention away from her.
“The advertisement depicts a number of women in an office environment, dressed in professional work attire, discussing a work issue. Their bras ‘talk’ in a lighthearted and humorous way to illustrate that they can be seen despite the professional office attire the women are wearing.”
The company also noted that the ad had been given a “G” viewer rating by CAD in Australia and was also approved for use by Google.
In question was whether it had breached section 2.1 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) Code of Ethics, which states that “'advertisements shall not portray 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”.
It determined that the ad “did not portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of gender”, and as such it did not breach the rules prescribed under the code. It also said that no other section had been breached either.
“The panel considered that the advertisement is representing a situation where women are uncomfortable in their bras and considered that this representation does not show any women to receive unfair or less favourable treatment. Nor is it a depiction which humiliates, intimidates, incites hatred, contempt or ridicule for the women in the advertisement or women in general.”
Hanes Brands has been contacted for comment.
Businesses are able to seek advice from Ad Standards on whether their advertisements meet with the Code of Ethics as well as access research on community expectations around what is and is not deemed to be acceptable.
As a self-regulating industry body, Ad Standards is separate from the federal government’s competition regulator the ACCC, which also monitors advertisements to ensure they do not breach consumer laws around the provision of false or misleading information.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.