9 February 2018

Geocon accused of demeaning women with their 'aspirational, chic' ad

| Ian Bushnell
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Wova Woden

The Geocon fence ad in question. Photo’s: Ian Bushnell.

This advertising for Geocon’s proposed redevelopment of the Woden Tradies Club site has got people talking, but not in the way the Canberra developer may have intended.

It drew the ire of a Canberra woman who shared her concerns on Facebook, and encouraged by her friends, approached Geocon and lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Bureau.

“Seemingly inexplicably, Geocon has chosen to use a scantily clad woman on a bicycle to advertise the latest construction development in Woden,” she posted on Facebook.

Wova Woden - Man

“The man in the advertisement gets to wear a shirt and jacket, but the woman is in a tiny body suit or swimsuit … her only protective gear is a pair of sunglasses. No helmet, no sun protection, not even shoes. Her ergonomics are also terrible. She can’t possibly be engaging her core properly with her back arched to thrust out her buttocks and breasts like that.

“Just what is she meant to be doing? Some kind of a hybrid fashion parade/triathlon?

“Or is Geocon just objectifying women here?

“Whoever paid for this ad campaign needs a wake-up call that it is 2018. And maybe Geocon can redeem itself by donating the same amount of money to women’s cycling.”

Facebook responses included:

  • “And tell them that it’s not cool, not funky and no one wants to look that stupid. It’s not Bondi! It’s Canberra! Marketing fail.”
  • “Total shocker.”
  • “Are things ever really going to change? This is ridiculous, clearly a boys club is running Geocon, the company that put together the campaign and the advertising body with their appropriate code of conduct standards.”

Geocon’s response to the complainant was similar to its submission to the Advertising Standards Board, which dismissed the complaint on 19 December.

It said the aim of the advertising was to attract interest in the development and convey an aspirational, chic lifestyle.

“Vibrant colours and striking images of cool, confident people have been used to convey this. The graphics, including the woman posting stationary on a bike, are highly stylised and conceptual only. They were not intended to portray the women in a sexist or inappropriate way – and also were not intended to offend members of the community.”

Libby Steeper, another aggrieved community member, said the company had misread the Canberra market where people are better educated and can pick a ‘sleazy’ attempt quickly.

She said the ad was unsuitable for this day and age and rejected the company’s claim of it being aspirational and chic, saying something social with clothes on would be more appropriate.

“Somebody having a glass of wine with friends would be chic,” she said.

Ms Steeper said the ad was obviously objectifying women and aimed more at younger men.

“What woman exercises like that in public? You would never see a woman dressed like that walking through the streets,” she said.

In her complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau, the complainant said: “This type of sexualised imagery perpetuates attitudes that treat women as second-class citizens and sex objects leading to the current epidemic of violence against women. This is not a message or attitude that should be promoted anywhere but especially not in such a prominent and visible place.”

She also noted that the woman was not wearing a helmet, as required by ACT law.

Geocon’s submission argued that the advertising focuses on interpretive ”lifestyle” and was not literal.

“The models are highly stylised and portray a modern, hip, cosmopolitan look and feel that is aspirational and appeals to a demographic that is our target audience,” it says.

“The intention is to inspire ideas of a ‘way of living in Woden’, that is contemporary, edgy, liberal, progressive, professional, successful, healthy and aspirational. The models are conservative, yet edgy and boast a European style, depicting a level of glamour, sophistication and success.”

It rejected any notion that the imagery was sexualised or could be seen as degrading.

“The image of the woman on the bicycle is not sexualised or sexually explicit in any way, nor could it be interpreted as exploitative or degrading in nature. She is wearing a swimsuit, on a stationary bicycle, depicting health, confidence and independence. There is no nudity or exposed private areas, no inappropriate interaction with others in the image. The woman is depicted in a positive light, referencing a happy, healthy, confident person enjoying an aspirational lifestyle, which is relevant to the product being sold.”

The submission also said there was nothing to suggest that the woman was cycling on a road or street without a helmet, indicating a disregard for safety.

The Advertising Standards Board found that because the woman was depicted exercising, the image was not demeaning to women.

“The Board considered the depiction of the woman in this manner is not a representation that the Board considered lowered the woman in character or purposefully debased the woman for the enjoyment of others,” the determination said.

The Board found that the images were not sexually suggestive or inappropriate for a broad audience, including children.

It also accepted the argument that the bicycle was stationary and therefore safety was not an issue.

What do you think? Does the ad cross the line? Does it achieve what it is aiming to do?

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Richard Agent9:30 am 10 Aug 18

I can see that the picture is provocative and presents a view that many will find demeaning.

Libby Steeper’s suggestion that “Somebody having a glass of wine with friends would be chic,” could also be seen a trivialising the alcohol problems in society.

I wonder if anyone has complained about the Geocon adverts for the High Society development with its semi-naked female or is she just elegant?

Actually, the thing people should complain about is the pretentious advertising Geocon puts out. They’re only blocks of units in Belconnen and Woden not some eighth wonder of the world!

Queanbeyanite10:16 pm 15 Feb 18

Got everyone’s attention, didn’t it!
I only ever go to the movies in Woden anyway, and to the fly fishing shop. The rest of the place looks like ‘a great place to make a movie about the end of the world’. Until I saw that ad I didn’t even know they were rebuilding it. They’ll need to flog off a lot of luxury apartments to justify borrowing another couple of billion to extend the tram all the way down there.

Well, I don’t aspire to be that pretentious.

She is thin but not healthily athletic. If the bicycle isn’t moving then she must be balancing well with both feet off the ground. It’s a still photo and no clue that the bicycle isn’t moving.

C’mon, it’s totally sexualized. What hetero male isn’t imagining himself as that bicycle seat?

Whoever it was at the ad agency that wrote that justification was giggling up their sleeve.

Offended that the ad people see people as that shallow.

The ad in general is so stupid, WoVa what does it mean? Why does Woden Revamped need to be shortened to some stupid meaningless word? I work just down the road and pass by the sign everyday and it just annoys me more than anything!

Very uncomfortable riding a bike like that. She would end up chaffed and on a hot day stuck to the seat. There’s a reason for cycling shorts. To not have that happen. Also, she must have feet of steel, because I think those are metal pedals. I used to ride bare footed as a child, but with rubber peddles. However one day my bare foot slipped off, over the front of the pedal and twisted underneath to scrape along the stoney ground. I’m not sure what this set up is aiming for here; chaffing, bare legs sticking to the seat, an accident with the bare feet, or a head injury with no helmet. And with that lack of muscle development, indicating she doesn’t ride a bike often, if ever, she would probably just fall over.

The same photo is used by the Victoria Cosmetic Dermal Clinic at 445 Nepean Highway Frankston. Kinda seems appropriate there, but not at this building site in Woden..,

Wasn’t it Geocon who featured topless waitresses at their post-construction party only last year? Erk.

Woden Valley Community Council7:21 pm 09 Feb 18

Geocon is not listening! – the Woden Valley Community Council (WVCC) also asked Geocon to remove the woman on the bike. Enough people are offended so the woman should be removed.
Geocon is not listening! – the WVCC has asked Geocon to our November, December and February public meetings to discuss WOVA however they have declined. It is not clear why they do not want to use this forum to talk to the community.
Geocon is not listening! – while the Tradies site is zoned for a marker building, the Woden Town Centre Master Plan states that ‘development adjoining Melrose Drive should be capped at approximately a 12 storey height limit to reduce the potential overshadowing impacts of the residential development on the western side of the road’. We are told that you get the same yield from a tall slender building as from a 12 storey squat building, if you go high and slender there is less overshadowing and the apartments get more sun.
Geocon proposes 800 apartments (4 towers) on the 1.1 hectare site, with a 24 storey (reducing to 18) squat building running down Melrose Drive from Launceston Street to the structured carpark. It is not clear how this proposal aligns with the spirit of the Master Plan or considers the residents across the road.
Woden needs renewal, the WVCC wants densification to be done well so that we get great outcomes for the Woden community.

George Brenan1:06 pm 09 Feb 18

Of course an ad doesn’t have to be litteral, but the incongruence in the treatment of the man and woman is all we need to know. He is a professional to be admired. She is object to be observed. They can each be as aspirational as they like – the overall context will not be changed.

greensareliars9:48 am 09 Feb 18

“She also noted that the woman was not wearing a helmet, as required by ACT law”
LOL She also isn’t riding a bike either, she is standing astride one in a photographic studio. You know the argument is pretty weak when people have to tag on silly stuff like “she isn’t wearing a helmet”

I’m not offended by the ad, I was more offended by Tradies closing 83 Restaurant in 2009 which led to the club going broke and causing this redevelopment in the first place.

Felix the Cat3:36 pm 09 Feb 18

John, I think you should cover up/delete/change your avatar immediately as it is highly offensive, sexist, chauvinist and misogynist…or maybe you should just photoshop a bike into it!

It’s sad that some people in our community don’t have anything meaningful to do with their lives other than look at these things to think about what to complain about. They seriously need to get a life

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