A posting by Zoo Weekly magazine on its Facebook page that featured a woman’s body cut in half before readers were asked which they preferred has been censured by the advertising watchdog.
The post – which went up in October – triggered a series of misogynistic comments from readers. Mumbrella raised questions about it at the time of posting.
However, Zoo’s publisher ACP Magazines tried to claim that the Advertising Standards Board should not adjudicate because its brand page was editorial rather than advertising.
Earlier this week, the Australian Association of National Advertisers issued detailed guidance that brands are responsible for their Facebook pages, including consumer comments, and should check them at least once a day.
It followed previous rulings from the ASB earlier this year making the same point.
A complaint to the ASB about the Zoo posting said: “The image, disturbing nature of having a disembodied woman and the offensive, clearly sexist and even abusive nature of some responses on a page being used to advertise this product should not be allowed. Both the pictures, the questions that are posed and the responses are regularly demeaning and unacceptable to women. Women are objectified and sexualised.”
But ACP – recently bought by Bauer Media – was unapologetic, arguing that the post was “editorial material” adding: “There are enough other sources of news, sport, fashion, topical conversation etc available for men today to follow, their choice of Zoo magazine is for a purpose – to engage with content that does’t require too much thought.” The ASB ruled:
“The Board first considered the image of the woman cut in half and the question that the advertiser had chosen to accompany the image. The Board considered that the image posted by Zoo with the accompanying question “left or right” objectified women and presented the women in a demeaning manner. The Board also considered that the comments posted underneath the image include language which treats women in a manner which is demeaning and inappropriate. The Board noted that these comments were invited by Zoo magazine by the question of “left or right?” and considered that Zoo magazine has a duty to moderate the responses in keeping with community standards. In the Board‟s view the post by the advertiser of the image and accompanying caption itself discriminated against women and that some of the comments posted underneath this image were also discriminatory towards women.”
The ASB also found against Zoo over a number of other complaints including “an image of a woman‟s bottom wearing white underpants with the word ‘Nintendo’ written across the back and the question, “What would you call this console?”, an image of a woman taking a photograph of herself wearing a bikini and holding a copy of Zoo magazine, an image of boobs with the corresponding title of ‘boobipedia’, and images of women wearing bikinis inviting users to comment on which bikini looks best.”
After receiving the ruling, ACP told the ASB: “To describe Zoo‟s Facebook page as a ‘marketing communication’ is to misunderstand the nature of modern media organisations and the way in which they use social media to engage with their audience. Zoo‟s Facebook page, like its website and the associated magazine, is a publishing platform comprising of editorial content supported by some advertising content. The content complained of was clearly editorial content and its publication on a Facebook page does not alter that characterisation.”