Who'd have thought it? Far from being a sexist profession, architects have demonstrated that they will not tolerate sexist advertising in their magazine. An advertisement placed by the Carpet Foundation (rolls of carpet, naked woman, weak pun) has prompted a rash of complaints .
The subject has, inevitably, raised questions about the aj's editorial stance. While we spend a great deal of time debating the content of the editorial pages, the editorial team has traditionally taken a detached attitude to the content of advertisements. Adverts are accepted at the discretion of the ad team provided that they are legal, and do not fall foul of the Advertising Standards Agency. On this occasion, the publisher, the advertising team, and the advertiser were made aware of the strength of feeling on the subject. We took a decision to honour a contractual obligation to run one more ad, which appeared on the back page of last week's issue, and told the Carpet Foundation that we would not be prepared to run any more adverts which would be likely to cause offence.
The Carpet Foundation has reacted with disbelief. This particular series of adverts is currently reaching some 20 million readers a day through magazines ranging from Good Housekeeping to Blueprint, yet the Carpet Foundation claims that it has not received or heard of any complaints other than those voiced by aj readers. It could be that readers do not bother to complain to consumer magazines as they do not feel that they have a realistic chance of influencing commercial decisions. aj readers feel proprietorial about their journal, and entitled to fume when they feel that it has let them down. There is a feeling that what may be tolerated in the media as a whole is unacceptable in a professional journal. Some feel that the aj has a particular obligation to encourage women into the profession; others have suggested that we should be 'setting an example to the boys on site'. So are architects more outspoken on this issue than the population as a whole? Not all of them. The offending advertisement has generated far more enquiries than it has complaints.