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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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3:05 pm 11 Feb 18

I get it, she's not wearing a helmet

2:18 pm 11 Feb 18

Not offended. If however it was Craig Moore wearing that outfit...

9:24 am 11 Feb 18

This image is not offensive, and all this has done is give GEOCON free advertising and exposure of their latest project. It’s certainly made me intrigued! Well done 👏👏👏

8:53 pm 10 Feb 18

Who ever thought this add up are really out of date. It is so last century. They need to come up with something better.

4:10 pm 10 Feb 18

It sure does cross the line .. the add should be removed....no wonder I won't invest in geocon when they stoop this low .....

2:45 pm 10 Feb 18

Ok ladies, if it'll make you happy I'll go and ask GEOCON if they'll put a pic up of me in DT's with some flippers and a snorkel

2:22 pm 10 Feb 18

People seem to go out of their way, on the lookout to find some negative thing to complain about. If you were poor, starving and living out on the street, then I might listen to your gripe.

2:13 pm 10 Feb 18

Are people seriously offended by this? Talk about regression, it drew the ire of 1 women, better take it down then

    2:51 pm 10 Feb 18

    Ok - make that 2. It is inappropriate (what's it go to do with a building site?) and it can cause accidents - people do a double-take to stare at the image. Billboard images can and do cause accidents.

1:30 pm 10 Feb 18

Its not very safe if she fell over

    8:43 pm 10 Feb 18

    Quirky? No, that implies some wit would eventually surface. The usual tedious procession of a flat uni-dimensional view of women as ‘willing objects’. Only demanding attention through the glib usual demeaning thoughtless imagery. Nothing unusual as that, tedious!

12:19 pm 10 Feb 18

What's a woman riding barefoot in a swimsuit got to do with apartment buildings? I'm not offended. And she's beautiful. But I really don't see Woden turning into a colony of onesie-wearing helmet-free cyclists... Good luck with that, Geocon. Ugh.

9:28 am 10 Feb 18

It’s not offensive, just boring and cliche.

8:51 am 10 Feb 18

I see a lot of bike riders around Lake Tuggeranong. Not one of them looks like this or wears their swimsuit. Not to mention she is breaking the law...where is her helmet?

    3:27 pm 10 Feb 18

    Pretty sure you don't have to wear a bike helmet in a photo studio. Oh and have you ever wondered why police don't issue speeding infringements at Bathurst 1000?

    4:34 pm 10 Feb 18

    Blen Carmichael sure but the poc is portraying her out on her bike outside with sunglasses. Therefore I think a poster like this which will be visible to the public should show her obeying the law🚲

    5:24 pm 10 Feb 18

    I can ride a bicyle legally outside without a helmet provided I do it on private property. Incidentally, I saw a movie (fiction) last night that showed someone breaking the law. I'm not sure what your point is.

    5:51 pm 10 Feb 18

    Blen my point is that no woman ride a bike in public like that in a bathing suit without a helmet. Rather than focusing on this being an inappropriate sexist advertising banner, I was making a different comment about its relevance to the real world.

    6:19 pm 10 Feb 18

    I support Julianne’s observations. I am a regular cyclist around Canberra and have never seen a woman cycling in a swim suit without a helmet. Let’s portray a healthy strong lifestyle with ppl wearing appropriate protective clothing and helmets.

    9:47 am 11 Feb 18

    You're demanding advertising and the "real world" must have a parallel relationship - seriously?

    9:48 am 11 Feb 18

    Nancye Burkevics Nice bit of confirmation bias there.

8:27 am 10 Feb 18

Put the guy on the bike in a thong & the woman in a suit!

8:16 am 10 Feb 18

Hahaha 🙄 please. I wish this was my biggest problem in life. I’d sleep like a baby every night

2:23 am 10 Feb 18

Nothing to see here...natural part of life and healthy lifestyle.

2:07 am 10 Feb 18

I saw a women in a 1 piece swimsuit riding a push bike through civic the other day. Lucky none of you guys were there to see it in person. You would have been disgusted.....

Maya123 12:09 am 10 Feb 18

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.

12:04 am 10 Feb 18

They are stupidly ruling out half of their potential customer base

11:05 pm 09 Feb 18

Was this not the same company that got into trouble for having waitresses dressed in only bikinis to serve drinks at their christmas party in broad daylight??

10:32 pm 09 Feb 18

I never knew a women wearing a one piece swimsuit was offensive. Would the offended women go back and wear the full body covered swimsuits from the early 1900's. Once again the minority carrying on like pork chops about something you see everyday at the lake , beach, triathlathons , Olympic Games , Commonwealth Games etc etc.

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