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Sexism Sells? 10 Sexist marketing campaigns that were actually real

Sexism and objectification have always been used in advertising and marketing under the justification that “sex sells”. It cannot be denied that sex sells, but sexism does seem to be becoming incredibly less marketable by the year.

Image credit: Dimension Films


In fact, in 2017 some of the world’s largest companies and advertising agencies alike announced that they would work in harmony to help to banish gender stereotypes from their advertising.

Campaigns like Always’ “Like a Girl” acted as a catalyst for the movement, given the amount of positive feedback received for it, much to the surprise of sexist advertisers. More recently, Always have been working to #EndPeriodPoverty with their new marketing campaigns, rather than shaming women for their menstrual cycle.

Phrasee goes back into the past and to take a look at some of the most sexist adverts which actually existed. And what’s more, some of them were never banned! Some more recent than you may think.

  1. Marsh & Parsons, 2017

As recent as 2017, we see this monstrosity thanks to Marsh & Parsons. Commuters were confronted by a poster comparing a younger woman to a “modern house extension”, stood next to an older man. Matching people and property is a pretty unfortunate tagline here, as it suggests the woman is the property. We are having flashbacks to the 17th Century!

Image credit: Netflix


2. Warner’s, 1970s


A body shaming campaign released by Warner in the 1970s. This is a classic case of reducing a woman’s worth to her physical appearance, and then playing on feminine insecurities about their bodies to seal the sale of whatever product is being sold, in this case, Lingerie.

3. Alcoa Aluminum, 1950s

Perhaps one of the most famous sexist adverts of all time goes to the “you mean a woman can open it?” campaign from Alcoa Aluminum. This particular ad plays on the common belief in the 50s that women were both physically and intellectually inferior to men. Patronising language and imagery towards women was a running theme in advertising at the time.

4. Ironized Yeast, 1970s

Again, another body shaming campaign aiming to help girls get the guy. Yes girls, if the guy you like won’t look at you now because of your appearance, it is definitely worth changing your body to finally bag him – NOT. If men “can’t stand the sight of you”, kick them to the curb like Ke$ha would.


5. Lucky Tiger, 1950s


Why just mildly objectify, when you can turn women into literal objects for your advertising campaign? Lucky Tiger does a great job at displaying one of the worst cases of this in the history of advertising – and that is not a compliment.

6. Pepsi, 1970s


Recently, Pepsi came under fire for their problematic audio-visual advert featuring Kendall Jenner which appeared to be making light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Image credit: Pepsi


Clearly, when looking at this ad, we can see problematic advertising is not that new for Pepsi. Overt sexualisation and body shaming working in conjunction to sell Diet Pepsi to the people of the 1970s, the perfect recipe for sexist advertising?!


7. Esso, 1970s


A classic example of an advertising campaign which only features a woman as a sexual object to draw the audience in. Considering she does not fit in contextually when trying to sell batteries, it is fairly obvious how demeaning this is.

8. G.E.C, 1960s


Starting them early with the gender roles, G.E.C cookers depicts a woman with her daughter in the kitchen. It is not clear if the tagline “Clever you!” is directed at the child, the woman or both, but that is the point. Knowing the political climate of the 1960s, we are pretty sure it is meant for both.

9. Kenwood Chef, 1950s

Kenwood successfully adding to the 1950s trend of reducing women to their role as submissive wives, because that’s all women aspire to be right? A wife’s job is to cook for their husband and that is it – look how happy she is about it as well! #RealtionshipGoals

Image credit: Bravo


10. Belvedere Vodka, 2012

This is a pretty unforgivable marketing move made by Belvedere Vodka, which trivialised sexual assault for an in-very-poor-taste “pun”. Yes, they really used a demeaning, triggering and despicable advert in the bid to sell alcohol. This received such backlash that it was, in fact, taken down within an hour of release. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t have been allowed – no one is really sure how this was seen as a clever marketing for a product aimed at both men AND women?

Image credit: 20th Century Fox


Trevor Beers, Senior Language Technician, Phrasee

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