Black & Decker nailed over ‘gender discrimination’ in ad

US power tool maker Black & Decker has received a hammering from a Swedish advertising watchdog for an advert described as "degrading" to women.

The Swedish business sector’s Ethical Council against Gender Discriminatory Advertising (ERK) slammed an advert that promised beauty treatments for the wives of men who bought its products.

“The ad was in the council’s opinion guilty of gender discrimination,” council spokesman Tobias Eltell told AFP.

The Black & Decker ad earlier this year promised customers a “pleased wife guarantee”, offering beauty treatments worth 350 kronor ($43 dollars) to the wives of men who bought spent more than 1,500 kronor on its tools.

“Through this text, the council finds that (the company) conveyed an outdated view of gender roles in which women are expected to be placated with beauty treatments while men buy tools,” ERK said in its ruling.

“This is degrading for both women and men,” it continued. “The ad is thereby gender discriminatory.”

ERK, which is made up of representatives of Sweden’s main advertising companies, has no power to impose sanctions on companies it finds guilty of discrimination, Eltell said.

“This is simply a modern pillory, in which we try to shame companies into doing the right thing,” he explained.

The council had received three separate complaints about the Black & Decker ad in the first half of 2008, and Black & Decker had withdrawn the ad as soon as it learned of the problem, Eltell said.

“It is very positive when the advertiser takes this so seriously,” he said, for while companies rarely ignored ERK’s rulings they often waited for its decision before withdrawing offending ads.

Some 500 advertisements are reported to ERK each year. In 2007, the council ruled that around 40 were discriminatory, Eltell said.