A caution for all advertisers, girls aren’t OK with this

Abby Ballard on November 28, 2017

Last month, funnily enough on the International Day of the Girl, writer, Bianca Wordley stumbled upon an advertisement that left her a bit angry. Or, as the headlines read, “fuming“.

Part of their new swimwear line, the fashion company, General Pants Co., decided to lead with the message: Slippery When Wet.

Take a look for yourself:

slippery when wet

Image via Facebook.

As Wordley writes in her article for Essential Kids, she needn’t explain the sexual innuendo to the three little girls she was shopping with when they saw the ad.

Even though it seems like just another ad, as she writes, it is the build-up of these daily sexist messages that eat away at the self-worth of girls.

“Girls are worth a hell of a lot more than just being sexual playthings,” she says.

“It’s time they were treated with more respect. It’s time more women, and more good men, in advertising spoke up against these types of campaigns and it’s time more men in advertising with these outdated attitudes shut their mouth.”

In case you thought people like Wordley had read too far into the ad, the video supporting it only confirms her concerns.

Here are the best shots:

general pants co

You get the gist.

Following Wordley’s article, many called out the messaging of the ad, with upset consumers also posting photos online of different brands but marketing the same themes:

Thin. Hot. Sex.

What’s important is that the “Slippery When Wet” campaign is not the first, and certainly not the last, to come under the scrutiny of the public.

Victoria’s Secret, unsurprisingly, has been on the end of terrible publicity, particularly after their “Perfect Body” campaign.


Needless to say what the problem is with the above image, and so the response was swift and sharp. It started an #IAmImperfect hashtag, which had women posting their bodies that could be considered as “imperfect”, according to this ad. Not only that, the Change.org petition that argued for the message to be changed gathered over 30,000 signatures.

Most importantly, Victoria’s Secret had to change its campaign and strategy. Fast.

In 2015, a bus company heard from a number (read: thousands) of unhappy commuters about their “Ride Me All Day” campaign.

Again, it doesn’t come as a shock to the average person that a woman, pictured topless, holding a sign saying “Ride Me All Day for £3” is somewhat controversial. It also doesn’t help when the singer, Charlotte Church, with a casual 166,000 Twitter following, criticises the company for it.

After the “volume of negativity”, the company had to remove all the signs within 24 hours.

I could spend the rest of this year listing off marketing campaigns that have received negative publicity for their inherent sexism and objectification, but you already know that.

The point is, the consumer is no longer passive. They no longer have to traverse media standards boards or councils to have their complaint heard. Take a photo when they see it and post an angry rant about it on their multiple social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or LinkedIn. Media pick this content up fast, and so do petitions to change the ad. Negative publicity is hard to slow when it gains traction.

However, through our research; The Art of Influencing Women we found that brands shouldn’t be afraid of consumers sharing their opinions, rather there is an opportunity to embrace it. 90% of women say they will talk about a positive experience they’ve had with a brand they LOVE versus just 7% of women who say they will talk about a negative experience they’ve had with other brands. What this means is that driving brand loyalty by aligning to her values, delivering on your promise and making her life easier is worth the investment because she’ll forgive you for a one-off negative experience.

So, in addition to perpetuating the outdated discourse that ‘sex sells’ these brands are limiting their ability to grow relationships with more socially conscious sectors of society.

While they may be positioned as “tongue-in-cheek” these/blatantly sexist ads serve as a lesson of what not to do when engaging with women. 

Not only does it cost them their reputation, it costs money.

Ripping all your billboards and social media posts down – within 24 hours – doesn’t come for free.

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