Ads tailored to the Czech mentality?

A TV advertisement for mobile phone operator Vodafone has once again raised the issue of ethics in Czech advertising, in particular the manner in which women are portrayed.

Alena Kralikova
The ad in question shows a young man going to ask his girlfriend's father for her hand in marriage. "I think you should give her a trial-run first - the prospective father in law- advises him. Live with her for a month, see how she cooks and cleans and then make up your mind." The ad refers to Vodafone's offer to let clients test its services for a month, free of charge before making up their minds whether to go for it. However not everyone is amused.

Alena Kralikova of Gender Studies says they've received plenty of complaints from both men and women who say they find the ad degrading:

"We don't like it because it shows a woman as an object, as a servant, as a person who should be tested for a month whether she can cook properly and do the cleaning etc. What you see is that she is being "given" to a young man by her father who says he should test her first to make sure that he really wants to be with her. We think that this is not the way to present a woman."

Zuzana Dolezalova from Vodafone's press department says the ad was merely an amusing exaggeration that should cause no offence to anyone:

"We do not regard the ad as chauvinistic. The spot aims to clarify the nature of the offer it is promoting "try Vodafone's services for one month free of charge with no obligation" through the use of humour. It is an amusing exaggeration that should not offend anybody. As a matter of fact a large number of the people who prepared this ad and who approved it were women."

On the grounds of a number of complaints received the Czech Advertising Council met to discuss the matter and came to the conclusion that the ad was not in violation of the code of ethics. The head of the board Radek Pokorny explains the council's position:

"It is our experience that Czech people do not have a problem with this kind of advertisement."

So are you saying that there is a demand for this kind of ad - where women are portrayed as housewives or sex-symbols - that the public responds to them?

"The Council for Advertising has to follow public opinion. That is the most important factor in preparing or changing the code of ethics in advertising. If the public does not have a problem with this kind of ad, then neither do we."

So if more women were to complain about this form of advertising you would be prepared to change the code of ethics?

So according to the head of the advertising council Czech women can influence the way in which they are portrayed in advertisements. But do they care enough to take a stand? Alena Kralikova again:

"You know, on the grounds of the response we get to such ads, I think that women are now ready to do that. To really say we do not like those ads because we are not like that. I would say that the position of women has changed or their approach to such ads has changed a lot over the last few years. They are now very open in saying we don't like it, we don't think it is appropriate for us to presented in this light and we want the ad to be withdrawn."