Online dating service Match.com has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a complaint about a TikTok post that was felt to be sexist and highlight negative gender stereotypes.
The post in June 2022 showed clips from a day in the life of a couple, with a female voiceover stating the things she does for her partner to “make him realise I’m a keeper”.
The actions, including making “him his protein shake after the gym”, always “making sure he has a fresh towel and socks after his shower” and putting the football on for him every evening”. The voice overs were heard over video footage of a man sitting down on his phone with his feet up on a footrest, with a woman bringing him a drink before kissing him.
Viewers also saw the woman arranging a towel and a pair of socks in the bathroom and the couple standing up watching football on TV with the remote control in the woman’s hand. The voiceover ended with “Find your keeper via Match. Go download the Match app today”.
The complaint challenged whether the post was harmful and offensive, with the complainant alleging that the ad was sexist and perpetuated negative stereotypes.
In response to the complaint, Match.com said it intended to demonstrate that small gestures in a relationship were integral to their success. It said that it had contacted real couples to ask them to show everyday thoughtful gestures and confirmed that a script wasn’t given to the couple in the post.
The ad was part of a three-video storyline featuring the same couple, and that the ad should be viewed in that context. All three ads were posted on the same day, and Match.com said that viewers watching all three ads consecutively would have been provided, it believed, with a balanced view of the relationship.
The dating site pointed out that one video in the series was titled “Things that make me realise he’s a keeper” with a focus on the small gestures carried out by the man for his partner, and the final one was called “Small gestures we do for each other that makes me realise he’s a keeper”.
While Match.com conceded that the ad viewed in isolation did not convey the full picture intended, it added that the gestures shown in ad under fire were “not time-intensive” and that it didn’t believe the post implied the woman had to do a larger portion of domestic chores.
It said it believed the ad did not portray women to be subservient to men and that the gestures in the ad were authentic to that couple and reflected their relationship. The video has since been removed and Match.com acknowledged that gestures carried out by both partners being featured in the same ad would have been more appropriate,
The ASA upheld the complaint, banning the ad to appear again in the complained about form. It said it understood that the ad was intended to highlight small gestures of kindness in relationships, but noted that all those performed by the woman were domestic chores.
The watchdog also said that the “actions of the woman were one-sided and were not reciprocated by the man in the ad.
“Whilst we acknowledged that the ad formed part of a wider campaign and that another ad focused on the man’s gestures, we considered that was not evident when viewing the ad and, furthermore, it was not referenced in the ad that the man would reciprocate any of the gestures”.
The ASA also felt that the ad showed a reliance on the stereotype of a woman carrying out domestic chores to please her male partner and that viewers would interpret the ad as reinforcing a negative gender stereotype.
“Indistinguishable from chores”
The language in the voiceover came under fire, with the ASA pointing that the woman’s use of the words “always” and “every” when talking about her gestures promoted an idea of habit and implied they were not one-off acts, but indistinguishable from chores.
The “passive” portrayal of the man sitting down with his feet up while being brought a drink was also felt to create an impression of an unequal relationship, while the ASA said it felt that the title of the ad “Things that make him realise I’m a keeper” reinforced an idea that women should be subservient to men to maintain a successful relationship.