07 April 2011

Embarrassing Advertising

Want to see a prime example of advertising that is in no way going to help the goal of getting members of the other half of the population interested in Ubuntu? It's right here!

Thanks, OMGUbuntu!, for being an embarrassment. Oh, and responding to complaints about it with "Funny how companies can get away with using massive sex appeal in advertising but as soon as we try it, it's apparently 'not okay.'" takes a lot of ignorance. As if nobody complains about sexism in other advertising? Yeah, right!

The response to another complaint was "How is driving away FOSS-promoting companies that use fairly mundane sexual marketing encouraging Ubuntu's mainstream adoption?" Guess what? Driving away half the potential users doesn't exactly count as good promotion or promoting mainstream adoption.

And you know what? No, this isn't the first time that tabloid has used sexualisation and objectification to get their precious page views.

I know, most of my posts lately have been political. I'm sorry about that. Having been busy with finals, graduating, moving (twice), and starting a new job, I've not had much time to spend on thinking of topics. Sometimes, topics just throw themselves in my lap, though.


Thomas said...

Wow. I was planning on checking that site out, as I had heard about it in the past and try to keep up on whats going on in Ubuntu. I definitely won't be now. Not cool.

Gladys said...

From one of the replies on that twitpic link you gave it would appear that Benjamin Humphrey was involved and his track record of causing offence to many people, myself included, makes me unsurprised by the ad...disappointed certainly, but unsurprised too.

Like Thomas I will blacklist OMGUbuntu! and its sister sites.

Gladys said...

I mean involved in the ad creation not only defending the indefensible.

Moose said...

Oh, yes, I forgot -- it's not really sexist if you also do the same thing against men.

Same bullshit that "consumerist.com" pulled on me.

Gladys said...

Might it be in order to make a formal complaint to Jono Bacon regarding Humphrey and a possible breach of the Ubuntu Code of Conduct...Humphrey was still a Ubuntu member and thus had signed the CofC when Last I checked...could this be done under the auspices of the Ubuntu Womens group if it is seen as desirable?

Mackenzie said...

Jono would not be the person to complain to. He has no decision making power in that regard and has attempted before to make Benjamin behave. The Community Council are the ones who can enforce the CoC and make consequences for violations.

Gladys said...

The last time I had a run in with Humphrey I complained direct to Mark Shuttleworth...I have no proof of a direct link but Humphrey stopped being a Team leader at that time too...infer what you will.

I would still like to see a complaint come from the Ubuntu Women's group though...carry more weight that way perhaps?

Anonymous said...

A formal complaint of some kind would be good. I've really had it with this guy.

Damon Lynch said...

Let me preface my comment by saying I personally find the two ads featuring the man and the woman to be uninspiring. I would never want to be associated with them for anythig I personally produced. I wouldn't click on them either.

But let me speak as a photographer whose photos are sometimes used by other people to sell things. Recently a set of my photos were used in a Facebook ad campaign for something that had nothing to do with with sexual attractivenss. Of all the photos that generated the most click-throughs, the most popular by far was the one that featured a close-up of a pretty woman's face. There was nothing special about the photo compared to the others. Far from it. She was merely one of a range of people in the ads, all of whom deserved to be in them.

My guess is that the type of viewers that will be attracted to the ads -- and my suspicion is that there will be many of them -- will recognize upon reading the text they've been had, will smile to themselves, and will regard the ads as light-hearted and amusing. That goes for both female and male viewers, queer, hetero, whatever.

Some of these types of viewers already use Ubuntu. Some of them will one day soon. Do they share all my assumptions, values and practices about gender and sexuality? Probably not. Do we share the same community, by virtue of being Ubuntu users? Yes we do.

I suspect whoever created these ads assumes the sexual attractiveness-saturated reality they are indexing is absolutely pervasive and they are cleverly making use of that reality.

While readers of this blog obviously don't agree with that assumption (me included), I think the best way to approach this issue is calmly and respectfully. And that includes recognizing that a huge number of people do not share all our norms. And it means we must listen to them with the same dignity we listen to each other. I don't see how instantly blacklisting an entire community of Ubuntu users is helpful. Likewise I don't see expelling them as helpful either.

Gladys said...

@ Damon

Surely from what you have said it follows that these ads are, in potential at least, damaging to the brand and, in absolute certainty, geared to deter one group (women) so even if they attract another group they fly in the face of the inclusiveness you espouse.

I think it entirely reasonable to blacklist a site that has frequently transgressed as the site in question has.

MartinEve said...

"Funny how companies can get away with using massive sex appeal in advertising but as soon as we try it, it's apparently 'not okay.'"

The other thing here is the phrasing used. He says other companies "get away with" using sexist advertising, so he knows it's "not okay" from the word go, he just also hopes that he will "get away with" it :/

Akshat said...

No offense, but I find it quite funny.

Damon Lynch said...


All the people who click on the hunky guys hot women are not welcome in our community? That's a lot of people.

Damon Lynch said...

Sorry, I meant to say hunky guys and hot women.

Gladys said...

@ Damon

Look again at what I said please...putting all else aside it is not reasonable to deter one group in order to attract another and still less so to do so in a way that is insulting as that ad was to some of us at least.

Commercial entities may not care about such things but FOSS communities should hold to a higher standard and be inclusive to all without deterring one group to gain another.

The group to which you refer would be welcome if they abide by the ideals of the community which don't include sexism.

Damon Lynch said...


Are we looking at the same ads? I saw an ad with super good looking guy and another with a super good looking woman. I saw that they're aimed at women and men, hetero and non-hetero.

Are all the folks who click on the ad with the handsome guy being sexist when they do so? You really think so?

As I see it, this is not at all a case of one man exploiting women for financial gain. This is one community of users (us) being frustrated at the actions and attitudes of another. And this latter community is probably much bigger in overall numbers. The rate of click throughs on the ads are one indicator of that.

Just because we're frustrated that gives us absolutely no right, moral or otherwise, to expel people or blacklist them.

It's good to have a respectful conversation about what our vision is and the best way to go about it.

I have not seen that conversation happening today.

Jeremy Bicha said...

Humphrey seems to enjoy offending those who aren't like him. Fortunately he is not the only voice on that website. d0od at least apologized as soon as the story started breaking.


There are several other comments he leaves expressing his disapproval of the ad campaign; I don't think I need to link to all of them.

Anonymous said...

Humphrey's excuse seems to be “It's not sexist! Its just heteronormative! And objectifying! Yay OMG!”

Greg K Nicholson said...

…d0od's “apology” https://twitter.com/#!/d0od/status/56165193796947968 doesn't admit an error of judgement, so it's a non-apology.

If they just want to show pretty people to attract clicks, fine—have copy along the lines of:

“We can't make you a C++ guru, but…”
“We can't get you 20 million followers, but…”
“We can't recover those files you forgot to back up, but…”

…implying that the pretty person above is/has/can.

Alex said...

I struggle to see how offence could possibly be caused by a pair of ads quite obviously taking the mickey out the many, MANY dating advertisements located on the same social networking sites that OMG!Ubuntu is attempting to advertise on. The intent of such a blatant parody would only be misconstrued as sexism by what appears to be very sensitive individuals.

Kazade said...

Wait a sec...

1. The ads are gender/status targetted. Single men would see the ad with the girl, single women would see the ad with the guy
2. They are quite obviously parodies of the date site ads you find on Facebook anyway
3. They work

I really don't see the problem

Joey said...

The adverts in question have offended a number of people in the Ubuntu Community and for that I personally apologise. It wasn't our aim to set out to 'objectify women' or 'use sex to sell' etc - rather just to have a poke at stereotypical dating ads on Facebook that use base banality to market seemingly everything. That humour got lost in translation.

OMG! Ubuntu! has a diverse writing team with people from different cultures, backgrounds, genders, sexual orientation, religion etc. We don't consider ourselves to be a harem of slobbering chauvinistic guys (or girls) anymore than we consider ourselves to be adherents to a particular religion, ideology or whatnot.

The adverts in question - of which you fail to mention the 'male' version - were targeted ads. Women, unless gay, would not see the 'female' ad. Likewise men, unless gay, would not see the 'male' ad.

It should also be noted that the referenced adverts are only 1 of 9 different ones we currently run and are not the *sole* way in which Ohso promote OMG! Ubuntu!.

Once again, apologies. Once this campaign has run its course it will not be renewed.

Casey said...

sorry but: "...first time that tabloid has used sexualisation and objectification?"

Funny how someone "sensitive" gets that, but the rest of us unwashed savages just see: "ad parody".

PC sensitive skin needs thickening, methinks. -roll eyes.

Mackenzie said...

I don't think "what you don't see doesn't hurt you" changes that "sex sells" is a cheap and objectifying way to do business. I also have no idea what dating ads you're talking about. I use Facebook every day, and I don't use an adblocker on it. I've never seen a dating ad on there. Most of the ads I see are about tech companies hiring, open source events, or trying to convince me that I need to buy some product to lose weight because everyone knows all women are insecure about their weight (I mark these last ones as offensive).

I did see that your first reaction was "is this gimped? pull it," so I think you recognise the problem just fine. Apparently one of your co-bloggers doesn't.

Anonymous said...

@Joey - You guys need a new comedy writer, British humour doesn't translate well into American culture (they watch British Comedies and still don't get half the jokes) So it might be worth nailing it down to country/region if you're going to take the piss.

@Mackenzie - Any parody of sexual objectification is in itself a method of removing it from casual society. It's a reinforcement that's it's childish and biennial. Of course this depends highly on weather the viewer understands that it is a parody or not, otherwise it's a reinforcement.

This area could do with research.

Also I see those loose weight ads too, apparently Facebook thinks I'm fat, or a woman, who knows which.

Marto said...

First off, @doctormo this isn't 'British humour' as you call it.

When it started out OMGUbuntu was a pretty good little site, it rapidly went down hill. I've seen much worse behaviour than this (set of ads) in their replies to comments on their site.

Sadly they are not alone in the Ubuntu 'comunity' for offending people or driving people away. I've seen just as much bad behaviour in Ubuntu members blogs via the planet.ubuntu site.

MorayJ said...

I've got to admit, this Big Brother approach to morality is what turns me off Ubuntu.

Ashish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manish said...

Wasn't it a parody? Why is it so tough to understand?
Which parody? You will come to know if you used Facebook regularly and once in a while checked the ads on the side.

Plus morality is such a subjective issue that many people even get offended by artistic nudity.

Bikini clad women are accepted in many parts of the world and in many parts of the world the are looked down upon.

I have stopped caring about people who get offended at sarcasm, humour or parody.

(I deleted the previous comment as my brother forgot to logout from his account. Now signed in with mine)

Mackenzie said...

As I said in a previous comment, I DO use Facebook regularly, and I don't have adblocking on it. I see plenty of ads on Facebook. NONE of them are related to dating. They're all about DrupalCon or companies hiring programmers or knitting

A parody only works if people are "in" on the joke. As someone who uses FB all the time and still had no idea it even allowed dating ads (what use are dating ads, anyway?) I can honestly tell you that not everyone was "in" on this joke.

Manish & MorayJ both make references to morality, and I just don't get it. I said nothing whatsoever about morality. I only mentioned respect. Disregarding other people's feelings is disrespectful, full stop.

calc said...


I wonder if the reason you don't see any of the dating ads that the others claim to be seeing on Facebook is due to you not having the "Interested in" item set to anything in your profile.

I use adblocking so I don't see any of the ads in any case.

The Casual Vegan said...

Sexist content from OMG Ubuntu has happened several times before.


Because we all know no one's mother can use a script if it's too difficult right?

They think sexism is acceptable if they do it subconsciously. I stopped reading their posts a long time ago.