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Geocon accused of demeaning women with their ‘aspirational, chic’ ad

Ian Bushnell 9 February 2018 147
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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147 Responses to
Geocon accused of demeaning women with their ‘aspirational, chic’ ad
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10:48 am 09 Feb 18

I found the billboards all around lake side of belconnen mall a little confusing. I think they are advertisements for an apartment complex development nearby, but all of the pictures are of a naked woman.

    11:49 am 09 Feb 18

    Me too! I found them very confusing. I thought they were perfume or lingerie shops in the mall but I think you’re right.

    There’s a stark contrast between two adjacent developers timber hoarding over there in Belco and similar here in Woden. There’s Sexualised women versus people eating in restaurants, doing yoga and playing sport. Which is more relatable? Seems obvious and really dumb.

    2:08 pm 09 Feb 18

    Theyre weird images too. Strange black and white photos of a woman in steam. I dont see how it promotes the apartments as it just looks a bit creepy.

10:46 am 09 Feb 18

Crass! Not crash but maybe a dangerous sign which will distract a driver! 🙄

10:45 am 09 Feb 18

I have heard sooo often the phrase ‘sex sells’. So unimaginative and crash!

10:35 am 09 Feb 18

Marija Marasovic you were right, it's like people forgot they can actually keep walking or keep scrolling, they don't have to be offended by everything. Pick your battles.

10:26 am 09 Feb 18

Come on seriously.... there are bigger problems in the world to worry about

10:07 am 09 Feb 18

Strange cycling outfit. What is she saying? “Shoutout to men, you’ll find ultra thin, scantily clad women here?”

9:58 am 09 Feb 18

Geocon sure picked the wrong ad for Canberra- a city with seriously strong women’s cycling participation.

9:50 am 09 Feb 18

Its pretty clear-from the intention of the ad the woman is not riding a 'stationary bike' But overall just an awful advertising campaign by Geocon. If Geocon did its research on what is term Chic or #Cyclechic it would have used a more appropriate image! Helmet or no Helmet https://www.google.com.au/search?q=copenhagen+cycle+chic&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6ydG_spfZAhVChbwKHb76BCIQ_AUICigB&biw=1745&bih=818

greensareliars 9:48 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”

9:48 am 09 Feb 18

Let me tell you though, she's wearing a lot more covering than the typical representation I've seen around my apartment complex pool this summer.

9:38 am 09 Feb 18

OMG have we got some snowflakes ??

9:35 am 09 Feb 18

If it helps, ill pose in an ad like that 😂😂

9:32 am 09 Feb 18

Lord, I'd hate to see what happens when that person see's a corona, or surf brand ad.

9:32 am 09 Feb 18

Oh really now.....

9:30 am 09 Feb 18

Didn't Geocon also have topless waitresses at a party in Belconnen? But yeah, they don't objectify women at all. 🙄

    9:43 am 09 Feb 18

    I don’t see anyone kicking up a stink when there are male topless waiters at a party??

    11:05 am 09 Feb 18

    Except when they are. Like being told they have to be topless to do the job or no job. Like they couldn’t be a waitress while wearing a blouse? Do you understand the concept of power?

    11:26 am 09 Feb 18

    John Garvey I’m not arguing Geocons actions, just your comment.

    A topless waitress is a topless waitress because that’s the job description they applied for.

    It’s not like a normal waitress was working in a normal situation and the boss walked in and said “OK girls, tits out or you’re out”.

    11:29 am 09 Feb 18

    John, I’m sure they can get a job working at a regular party wearing a blouse or if they wanted to they could earn 5 times that topless, it’s their choice what they do with their bodies to earn money

    Unfortunately I wasn’t genetically fortunate so it’s unlikely I could get a job as a topless waiter, but I can understand why people who are able to do

9:28 am 09 Feb 18

How is that relevant or even realistic? Is there a man wearing a speedo on a bike?

This woman is being objectified while the man looks cool. Either have both scantily glad or not at all. I am with the lady who complained. It is 2018. I don't want to see female objectifon like this.

    4:05 pm 09 Feb 18

    Spot on. Yet to see a woman riding a bike wearing a cossie except triathletes and she is clearly not one of those.

    2:33 pm 10 Feb 18

    Doesn't matter what you want. If a person chooses to advertise in this way and the women wants to do it that's their choice. Make sure you don't go to a busy beach, you might hyperventilate and go into shock

John Moulis 9:27 am 09 Feb 18

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 Cat 3:36 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!

bd84 9:26 am 09 Feb 18

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

9:23 am 09 Feb 18

Some people just feel the need to be outraged at something, anything. Usually to detract from their mundane and sterile existence. Personally I think sexualising women is not cool, but with things like this, it's a billboard not a link to a porn site or worse!

9:21 am 09 Feb 18

The problem is too many people going out of their way to feel offended by every little thing...

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