Helsingborg student Elin Hemréus got fed up with the advertisement for the club Urban Bar and filed a report. The ad has now been convicted of gender discrimination.
A woman lying undressed in a pile of leftovers. A naked girl jumping around in a gorilla mask for no apparent reason. Girls simulating oral sex with a banana. Elin Hemréus, student of Strategic Communication at Campus Helsingborg, got fed up with the sexist advertisement for Urban Bar and filed a report with the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman.
”I felt that if I get this upset and see it as a problem I discuss with my friends, I should do something more about it”, she says.
Sparked a debate
The report sparked a lively debate in Helsingborg. When Helsingborgs Daglad wrote a story about it the newspaper had to close its comments section, and there were several heated comments on Urban Bar’s Facebook-page.
”Many people have been in touch, both on Campus and in the city. I have received a lot of emails from people who have previously reacted yet not done anything about it”, she says and continues:
”This seems to be something people want to talk about. Perhaps precisely because there is a problem here, both in the pub business, but also in the student life. One of my friends, for example, left a sittning a couple of years ago because of a similar issue.”
Witch-hunt on Facebook
The response from Urban Bar was not, however, what she had expected.
”I gave them an opportunity from the start to comment on my report. The owner gave me the response that ´we do not understand why you want to be provocative and believe that we want to provoke our guests´. I was shocked”, Elin Hemréus says.
But the critics went one step further. When Helsinborgs Dagblad had published their story, a witch-hunt for Elin Hemréus started on one of the club’s official Facebook pages. People wrote that her opinions were frightening.
”The response from the owners was a let-down. They could have done things a lot easier for themselves. It is worrying when an organisation does not understand that they are going for personal attacks.”
Was convicted by the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman
Last Friday, the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman gave their verdict: Urban Bar was convicted for gender discriminating marketing. Since the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman, however, is not a government authority, there will be no legal implications.
”We cannot give any sanctions other than publishing all of our decisions on our web page. That could be seen as a form of name and shame, I suppose”, the Advertising Ombudsman Elisabeth Trotzig says.
She hopes that this is enough to make Urban Bar take another look at their advertising.
”We expect market players to respect these decisions. Most do follow the decisions of the commission, and many correct themselves after just a report. It is a signal that not everything is as it should be in your marketing communication. If you receive negative reactions from your consumers, you might not have succeeded”, Elisabeth Trotzig says.
Fredrik Norling, joint owner of Urban Bar, has little to say about the conviction.
”I don´t have much to say about it. I won´t force anyone to visit us”, he says.
Pleased with the outcome
Elin Hemréus was in Stockholm working on her bachelor essay when the decision from the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman came.
”It felt positive. If you use sexist advertising going against the rules we have you should be convicted. A conviction and a debate on the subject is a slap on the wrist”, she says.
”If men and women are discriminated we should put it in the spotlight. I have a responsibility as a member of society just as much as the people running these organisations. It is a mutual relationship. I should tell them what I believe is wrong, and they have a responsibility on their hand not to send out a discriminating message”, Elin Hemréus says.
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Text: Kenneth Carlsson
Translation: Carl William Ersgard