A UK-based subscription toothbrush service has found itself in hot water after including an advertisement that several are calling “sexist” in a welcoming box for University of Sussex first years.
The Brushbox flier provided to new students immediately raised red flags, as it features a woman’s wide-open mouth on the front of it with foamy toothpaste dribbling out.
On the back, the ad has the words “spit” and “swallow” in bold when referencing a student’s “daily oral regime.”
— Untameable Shrews (@untamableshrews) September 20, 2018
People have been calling out the brand for creating an ad that has such a suggestive message, with some going so far as to say, “This is sexual harassment.”
— 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐡𝐚 🐊 (@SobukiRa) September 20, 2018
— Patricia Archy (@patriciaarchy) September 19, 2018
@brushboxuk shocking that a place where people go to expand their minds are subjected to this. Shame on you!
— Annthepan (@Annthepan1) September 20, 2018
While people are also placing blame on the university for promoting the inappropriate message, it turns out that an outside company called Dig-In is responsible for curating the box.
Could it be a really grim Brushbox leaflet with a picture that looks like a woman who has just given oral sex? Disgusting.
— Shouty McShouty (@to_the_regiment) September 19, 2018
Designed to provide students with welcome boxes, samples, and surveys, the company creates a yearly “Freshers’ Giveaway” specifically for incoming university students.
According to a University of Sussex Students’ Union spokesperson, this incident may mean the end of the university’s partnership with the company.
“We were very disappointed to find this promotional material in our Dig-In boxes, and will be reviewing whether to renew our contract with this supplier,” the spokesperson said.
Dig-In provided an apology, saying, “Dig-In would like to apologize unreservedly for its part in distributing Brushbox’s promotional beer mats. The beer mats distributed in some of our freshers boxes do not, in any way, reflect our high ethical standards and we have put immediate measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Brushbox, the company ultimately responsible for the advertisement, provided this statement: “We are really sorry if anyone has been offended by the promotional image used in the Dig-In boxes. We now realize it was inappropriate and misguided of us to use this type of image as a way to raise awareness of dental health issues. We completely understand that the image could be deemed as derogatory to women and for that we are truly sorry — this was never our intention, and we take full responsibility for any upset it has caused. Brushbox is a company which prides itself on its family and ethical ethos and we are very disappointed that something which was meant to encourage good health habits amongst students has caused any offense.”
Some social media users are pointing fingers at the brand for possibly using this as a promotional stunt to boost publicity for the relatively unknown brand.
As a marketer, this campaign is a total disgrace. Yes #BrushBox has some limited brand recognition but for all the wrong reasons. Who will proclaim or show they buy their product. Yes, I also assume that a young group of non-informed males came up with the campaign 🤷🏻♂️
— Conor C (@Capital_FinServ) September 20, 2018
I honestly dread to think.
I'm guessing perhaps 'brushbox'
Wanted to get their brand noticed
So have done something that would be perceived as sexist and creepily rapey so they can get featured on blogs and get mentions
I'd rather build my brand round the product and service ❤
— TUCO (@tuco_tuco) September 20, 2018
Consensus is, this wasn’t the way to get the Brushbox brand name out there.
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