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Are these the most sexist ads of all time?

14th Jun 2019

As the Advertising Standards Authority clamps down on harmful gender stereotypes, we take a look at the worst offenders from over the years. 

A ban on adverts featuring "harmful gender stereotypes" has come into force in the UK following a review of gender stereotyping in adverts by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA said the review concluded that harmful stereotypes could "restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes".

The ASA outlined the new rules at the end of last year, giving advertisers six months to prepare for their introduction. Examples of adverts that could be "problematic" included:

  • Situations that depict a man or a woman failing to succeed at something because of their gender, such as a man's inability to change nappies or a woman's inability to park a car.
  • Adverts that belittle a man for carrying out stereotypically "female" tasks.

So what brands have been guilty of gender stereotyping in the past? We name and shame the worst offenders, safe in the knowledge that we have seen the last of these kinds of campaigns.

Alcoa Aluminium and Kenwood Chef



In the 50s it was common for women to be portrayed as both physically and intellectually inferior to men. Even then, these campaigns from Alcoa Aluminium and Kenwood Chef still stood out.

Goodyear Polyglass

As advertising dollars shifted from poster ads to television campaigns, it enabled misguided brands to be sexist with both sound and vision. This particularly awful example from Goodyear Polyglass launches into a hysterically tense score the moment a woman is behind a steering wheel.

Libman Wonder Mop

Dads have long been a target of ridicule in adverts. Clumsy. Stupid. Lazy. It was an accepted stereotype for many years, as this advert from Libman Wonder Mop demonstrates.


But when Huggies launched its "Dad Test" ad in 2012, it represented a step too far. Depicting a group of sports-obsessed idiotic dads were were completely incapable of putting nappies on their children, the ad perhaps under-estimated the role that modern fathers play in raising children today - with surveys demonstrating that more dads than ever are taking on significant child-rearing duties.

The campaign attracted a rash of complaints, including an online petition against the ad that attracted over 1,300 signatures. Eventually, the Kimberly-Clark brand conceded that it had got it wrong and pulled the campaign. It was changing time for Huggies. 

European Commission

When the European Commission decided to dabble in the marketing arena as part of its campaign to encourage more females into the science and technology sectors, it seemed like an admirable endeavour. Who could have guessed that it could have cocked up so spectacularly?

Despite its best intentions, 'Science: It's A Girl Thing' relied on mass stereotypes and misogyny – leading many to question whether a single woman was consulted through the entire process. 

Heavily made-up women dancing to dubious Euro pop? Check. Stilletos and mini dresses? Check. Replacing the 'i' in science with a lipstick? Er, yes. 

The European Commission was mocked and criticised in equal measure before hastily dropping the campaign.  



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