Sexual Harassment And Cleaning Product Adverts

There’s been a bit of an outcry over this advert for Shiny Suds, which features a bunch of bubbles leering over naked woman in the shower. The advert was supposedly produced to support an act to have household products clearly labelled.

The implication in the ad is that if you use certain chemical cleaners in your bathroom, the residue might leave some nasties behind, albeit probably not the kind of animated suds that might threaten a group sexual assault. This ad is clearly problematic, but I suppose it’s quite effective in its intention, which is to imply that something unpleasant – ‘toxic’ even – may result from using inferior products.

Its subversion of a time-honoured advertising meme, the anthropological animation of friendly household goods, is quite a clever one and the realisation well done, right down to the leering rendition of a crapulous jingle. The combination of a frightened, naked woman being forced to wash in front of a ravening pack of male creatures is pretty unpleasant. That’s the point.

However, anything that conflates using certain products with sexual assault, no matter how indirectly, ironically or unwittingly, is far beyond the pale. Some blogs went so far as to say that the ad actively ‘condoned’ or ‘promoted’ rape, a rather silly remark in my opinion, but one that shows how dangerous it is to reference sexist behaviour in advertising.

The ad agency responsible has now pulled the ad, but not after racking up close to a million hits on Youtube and a good amount of cheap publicity. It’s almost enough to make you wonder whether that was the intention all along.