South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) was not charmed by car marketplace AutoTrader’s Valentine’s Day advert, ruling that it perpetuated gender stereotypes.

The ARB’s directorate upheld a viewer complaint about the advert, which depicted a young woman scrolling through luxury cars on AutoTrader, hoping her date would arrive in one.

The young man, however, drives up in a rust bucket, and various comical struggles with defective doors, windows and seatbelts ensue.

The vehicle then fails to start. “I think your car’s trying to tell you something,” says the woman, showing her date the screen of her phone.

“AutoTrader?” the man asks. The woman then takes his flowers and leaves her jilted suitor crestfallen.

“Yoh, don’t let your car be the reason you are single,” says a voiceover. “Swipe right on AutoTrader this Valentine’s Day.”

Dated stereotypes

Objecting to the use of gender stereotypes, a viewer submitted a complaint to the watchdog.

“I find this advert quite derogatory and insulting to women and perpetuating stereotypes about women. The stereotype of women being status-driven, greedy, using men to elevate their status is being perpetuated,” said the complainant.

“It is further unfair to men, insinuating that men need to achieve a certain income bracket / level of status to have relationships with women. Women have come a long way — independent, educated and successful enough to buy their own luxury vehicles. This advert has really disrespected women and is perpetuating stereotypes that both women and men are working long and hard to change.”

She added that she did not want her teen son to conclude from the advert that he had to impress potential girlfriends with a luxury car or that women were gold-diggers and therefore not worthy of respect.

Spurned arguments

AutoTrader denied that it had intended to promote gender bias stereotypes, arguing that “the tone and feel of the ad is deliberately humorous and light-hearted.”

It added: “The advert aims to highlight a tendency to procrastinate on taking the necessary steps to procure a new and better vehicle, rather than an existing unreliable and unsafe car. The message is that there is no need to put off making such a decision and following through on it due to the ease with which AutoTrader’s app offering can be effectively used.”

However, stating that “humour alone cannot be a justification for the use of gender stereotypes,” the Directorate ruled that the company had indeed employed such stereotypes — “that women are on the search for men who display financial security through assets and that men have to be financially successful to be attractive.”

It found AutoTrader to be in breach of the country’s Code of Advertising Practice; it instructed the company not to use the commercial in its current format again and the ARB’s members not to run it.

AutoTrader.co.za, the leading auto marketplace in South Africa, is run by Prosus, which also operates recruitment marketplace Careers24.com and real estate marketplace Property24.com.

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