Your sexist billboard sucks, ad watchdog tells fast-food chain

The Kota Joe Roadhouse ad that attracted a complaint from the Reformed Church of Pretoria.
The Kota Joe Roadhouse ad that attracted a complaint from the Reformed Church of Pretoria.
Image: Advertising Regulatory Board

A fast-food chain whose billboard used an image of a scantily clad woman “toying with a rather phallic waffle on a stick” has been castigated by the advertising watchdog.

“The gratuitous use of sexualised women and sexual puns, with no product relevance, is unacceptable,” the Advertising Regulatory Board said in its finding about the billboard created by Kota Joe Roadhouse, which has four outlets in Gauteng.

The board advised members not to accept the ad, but it cannot ban it because Kota Joe does not subscribe to the code of advertising practice.

The Reformed Church of Pretoria complained to the watchdog about the ad, saying the suggestive image and slogan were “offensive, unsavoury and degrading towards women”.

It added: “Advertising where scantily clad models are used to draw the attention of consumers ... cannot be condoned any more as they contribute to the [perception] that women are a commodity to be used as and when needed, and then discarded.”

The image Kota Joe used to launch its Edenvale location.
The image Kota Joe used to launch its Edenvale location.
Image: Twitter/Kota Joe

Kota Joe, based in Boksburg on the East Rand, told the watchdog that not all advertising would appeal to everyone, and said it had been complimented on the billboard.

It denied that the ad encouraged any activity that might be harmful to women, and said it did not “generalise any gender stereotyping or negative gender portrayal”.

But the watchdog said the ad portrayed the woman as “a consumable commodity, rather than a multi-layered human being”.

The phallic imagery of the waffle on a stick — one of Kota Joe’s menu items, available in seven flavours for R36.90 — in combination with the headline “More than a mouthful” dominated its outrage.

“For any adult viewer, the primary communication becomes the sexual pun,” the board said. “To argue otherwise would be naive.

“The woman becomes objectified: included only for her value as a sexual object, and serving no other purpose.”

The board said the ad was “reminiscent of old-fashioned, over-sexualised advertising that uses women to promote completely unrelated products — the cliché of the woman in a bikini draped across the bonnet of a car”.

The billboard that dominates the parking area at Kota Joe in Edenvale.
The billboard that dominates the parking area at Kota Joe in Edenvale.
Image: Kota Joe

The main image on Kota Joe’s website, shot at its Edenvale location, shows the model from the billboard ad draped across the bonnet of a car and sucking on a straw.


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