Times have undoubtedly changed. Equality is the purpose of many fights due to gender, race, sexual preference, among others and roles divided by presupposition are no longer accepted.
Although not many legal systems have included rules concerning these issues, the influence of social media has changed the feed back from each ad launched into the market. Consumers are no longer distant from manufacturers and distributors; this means that waiting until a market research is performed to determine how certain ad was received, is not necessary anymore. Social media closed the gap and made advertisement accessible for consumers to criticize or support.
Thus, reaction (either positive or negative) towards an ad is immediate. Most robust trademarks know how their advertisement has been received and can adapt easily to where the world is moving, to what the world is accepting or can simply adopt a disruptive practice, which creates noise, that sometimes is the whole point.
Colombia has seen its share of controversial advertisement.
An airline used an ad stating: "Take your mistress to the 'Arenosa' (sandy)" (sandy is an appellation for the city of Barranquilla), to promote tickets to Barranquilla. The word 'mistress' is demeaning for women, and therefore received a very strong rejection, not only from the consumers, but also from the Office for Human Rights of the Ministry of Interior, which requested a modification of the ad, as the phrase promoted discrimination and sexism against women. Despite the adverse reaction among consumers, the airline increased its sales to Barranquilla by the threefold, due, exclusively, to this ad.
The thing is, that sometimes we are so used to discrimination and gender presumption, that we fail to notice the underlying messages hidden in apparently positive advertisement.
However, very far from a positive message was a recent campaign of a mobile company that consisted of three ads, two of which read: "Killed her with $800 pesos", "Did it with both at the same time" and "Consumed seven days a week". The ads were included in a tabloid with the format of a news article. By them selves the phrases did not amount to much. Nonetheless, they were included with a graphic setting which depicted an image easily understood as a murder of a woman in the first case and as a bigamist or cheater in the second case.
The ads tried to play with a double meaning, including fine print at the end explaining the real sense of the ad. However, as most fine print does, it failed to convey the proper message.
Hence, given the high and regrettably increasing number of murders and crimes against women (in Colombia 2.6 women die per day), and as part of the public policy to protect and generate respect for women, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce ordered the company to remove all the ads and to refrain from issuing campaigns that could affect the human dignity, seed any kind of discrimination, publicly incite criminal activities or be understood as apology to commit crime.
Although some attempts have been made to create equality, such as the creation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been signed by 99 countries; the intervention of some courts that have taken upon the task to forbid any act of discrimination, which includes any of its manifestation in advertisement; and the effort of some self-regulatory entities which have included general rules for advertisement, to avoid representations or improper allusions that offend the morals or good customs prevailing in society or encourage any form of discrimination; we still are far from achieving a status quo of nondiscriminatory advertisement.
More is needed. Consciousness from advertisers and positive messages to eliminate all presupposed differences and walk towards a world of equality, is the required trend.
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