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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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hels 10:26 pm 09 Feb 18

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..,

10:17 pm 09 Feb 18

Strive and you will achieve.

Sit on your fat arse and you’ll have a whole lot more of it.

I’m not against anyone promoting a healthy lifestyle.

    1:41 pm 16 Feb 18

    Might I suggest that you get off your 'arse" (borrowing your 'eloquent' word) and try cycling with bare feet and metal pedals, a good distance over some hours to get decent exercise, with no upper leg protection from chaffing and enjoy the bleeding feet and chaffed legs. This hardly promotes a "healthy lifestyle". My guess, you don't know what you are talking about re cycling, or you wouldn't have written what you did.

    2:29 pm 16 Feb 18

    Julie Macklin what??

    I ride my bike to work everyday wearing or not wearing whatever I feel like.

    6:00 pm 16 Feb 18

    You ride with bare feet on metal pedals and wear a swimming to work? Wow, and I thought my work place was casual. Tougher than me also.

    6:25 pm 16 Feb 18

    Julie, believe it or not...there is ALWAYS room for a little creativity 🙂

8:20 pm 09 Feb 18

Thid ad makes me uncomfortable because she couldn't possibly sit on the bike seat or use the pedals. The pedals are spiky and she isn't wearing shoes!

Lucy Baker 8:16 pm 09 Feb 18

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

7:47 pm 09 Feb 18

No line crossed imo

7:31 pm 09 Feb 18

What does the model think?

Woden Valley Community Council 7:21 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.

7:11 pm 09 Feb 18

She's actually wearing more than what most Australian women CHOOSE to wear at the beach...so what's the issue??

    8:36 pm 15 Feb 18

    But she's not at the beach. She's on a bicycle and most women wear more than that on bicycle...unless they want to be very sore.

    10:07 am 16 Feb 18

    She could easily be riding home from the beach...or riding to the beach though. Hang around Bondi on any summer day and you'll see plenty of women wearing only their swimmers walking/riding to and from the beach.

    Given the many protests by far left feminists such as "Free the Nipple" featuring women protesting in the streets literally and intentionally topless and attending festivals with only glitter designs covering their otherwise uncovered boobs (and asserting their right to do so) I fail to see how they can then turn around and complain about this. That is outrageous hypocrisy.

    1:57 pm 16 Feb 18

    It's a long way to Bondi from here, bare footed and chaffed legs.

6:30 pm 09 Feb 18

Of course the complaint was from a woman. Jealousy is a curse

6:19 pm 09 Feb 18

Get real people

5:58 pm 09 Feb 18

Wonder if there would have been any objections from the same complainants had there been a scantily clad man in the design. At most the image is bizarre seeing Canberra is not a 'beach' city so the lifestyle portrayal is geographically inaccurate. Lots of public servant in suits though so they get it half right.

    6:10 pm 09 Feb 18

    A man in a Speedo on a bike would be just as relevant to property marketing.

    6:15 pm 09 Feb 18

    Had there been a man in a speedo, would the complaints have been around relevance to product or sexualising men? My guess is there would have been zero complaints.

5:41 pm 09 Feb 18

No, but she has achieved the marketers objective of wide publicity.

    6:25 pm 09 Feb 18

    Have they? I still know nothing about the development and now have no interest in looking into it. We'll take our investment dollars elsewhere thanks.

5:41 pm 09 Feb 18

I would have had zero problem with this if she were lying on a sunbed by a pool or beach and it was advertising something to do with beach life. This doesn't make sense and is unnecessary. It contributes to a problem that is 'death-by-a-thousand-cuts' - we're exhausted by the imagery of scantily clad women but we'll dressed men. People who are angry at those who who dont appreciate it - chill out and listen rather than getting defensive. It's about its context in our culture, not the details of the image.

5:38 pm 09 Feb 18

Weird marketing.. it may be more suited if they were advertising a triathlon haha.. I think it's a attention grabber rather than demeaning to women.and inappropriate use if this type of image for a construction project.

5:30 pm 09 Feb 18

Where is her helmet!!!!

5:28 pm 09 Feb 18

That’s the one Christie Wilson!!

5:27 pm 09 Feb 18

So tired of it 🤢

5:22 pm 09 Feb 18

It's an example of hypersexualising women which then contributes to poor societal values of women

4:58 pm 09 Feb 18

Why would you be riding in Woden in swimmers? Soon to be nowhere to swim!

4:56 pm 09 Feb 18

She’s not wearing a helmet... 🤭🙄

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