A TV advert which asked viewers to ‘spot the trans’ at a horse race has been deemed offensive by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The advert by UK and Ireland bookmaker Paddy Power showed women at the Cheltenham Festival – a prestigious horse race in England – and invited viewers to decide whether they are ‘stallions’ or ‘mares’.
Today (16 May) the ASA upheld complaints that the 30-second TV spot was offensive and condoned harmful discriminatory behaviour, ruling that the advert must not be shown again in its current form.
The 30-second TV spot, which was pulled from UK channels in February after a flood of complaints from outraged viewers, features a voiceover speculating on the gender of each person in shot, saying ‘woman’ or ‘man’.
After one emerges from a men’s toilet, the voiceover says ‘Dog. I mean, man’, before concluding, ‘Good luck with that.’
The ASA received around 500 complaints about the advert and launched a formal investigation into 92 of them.
‘We considered that the ad trivialized a highly complex issue and depicted a number of common negative stereotypes about trans people,’ read a statement from the ASA.
‘We considered that by suggesting that trans women would look like men in drag, and that their gender could be speculated on as part of a game, the ad irresponsibly reinforced those negative stereotypes.
‘And, particularly by framing the game in a way that involved a member of the public who had commented on Paddy Power’s Facebook page, the ad condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment.’
Paddy Power said it is ‘disappointed’ by the ASA’s ruling on the ‘Lady’s Day’ advert.
A spokesman said: ‘This decision is especially frustrating given that the commercial was pre-approved by British television advertising clearance body Clearcast, who then considered the humor in the advert, while not to everyone’s taste, fell short of causing offence.
‘Furthermore, we exclusively cast members of the trans community in the various transgender roles in the commercial.’
He added: ‘Finally it is worth pointing out that the commercial has almost 600,000 views with twice as many "likes" than "dislikes".’
Paddy Power consulted UK transgender group The Beaumont Society for feedback on the advert’s script.
But, according to the BBC, the group told the ASA the version they had seen did not include the scene with the dog and it wasn’t happy with the way the terms ‘stallion’ and ‘mare’ were used in the finished product.
Transgender activist Jane Fae welcomed the ASA’s ruling.
However, she told Gay Star News that although she found the advert offensive, that alone is not a good reason to ban it.
She said: ‘The reason the advert has caused enormous concern is that in some parts of the UK being publicly transgender can lead to being admitted to the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department.
‘The advert sends a message that transgender people are ok to be spotted and looked out for.’