Samsung cleared over ‘irresponsible’ commercial that showed woman running at 2 a.m.

July 20, 2022, 11:19 AM UTC
Jung Yeon-Je—AFP/Getty Images

Samsung has been cleared by the U.K.’s advertising regulator after a commercial promoting its products was accused of encouraging unsafe behavior.

The ad, which aired in April, featured a woman waking up at 2 a.m., putting in wireless earbuds and going for a run through the dark streets of a city.

It was promoting Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4, Galaxy Buds 2 and Galaxy S22 phone.

Following its broadcast, the commercial attracted criticism on social media and 27 complaints were filed to Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

It was dubbed “unrealistic” by women on social media, who argued that it wasn’t safe for women to go running in the middle of the night.

Esther Newman, the editor of Women’s Running magazine, told BBC Radio 1 in April that Samsung’s commercial “wasn’t representing the truth.”

“Women don’t run at that time because we are too scared to,” she said. “It’s really shocking. I don’t know any woman who would be running at 2:00 in the morning. Certainly not in a city.”

Meanwhile, women’s safety campaign group Reclaim These Streets told British media the ad was “completely and utterly tone deaf” in light of the murder of Ashling Murphy, a 23-year-old school teacher who was killed earlier this year when she went for a run in Ireland.

The case was the latest in a string of violent murders of women that have brought women’s safety in the U.K. into the spotlight.

In April, Samsung told the BBC it was not its intention to “be insensitive to ongoing conversations around women’s safety.”

“We apologize for how this may have been received,” the company said.

The complaints filed to the ASA noted the number of recent high-profile cases where women had been attacked in circumstances similar to those depicted in the Samsung commercial.

Complainants had challenged whether the ad was “irresponsible and harmful by encouraging an unsafe practice,” the ASA said.

However, the watchdog said on Wednesday that it had concluded that the commercial “did not encourage an unsafe practice and were not irresponsible.”

“We recognized that some care would need to be taken when going for a run alone in the middle of the night, particularly for women, and we considered that people would be likely to realise that by doing so, they could be placed in a vulnerable position,” the ASA said in a statement.

“We noted that the woman shown in the ads appeared alert and aware of her surroundings, and was seen running in well-lit, main streets where other people were present. We considered, therefore, that the woman was not shown behaving recklessly or obviously placing herself in danger.”

The organization added that running alone at night was not likely to result in harm or injury, and while an attack could happen, it was outside of the runner’s control and could also occur “at all times of the day or night.”

The ASA said Samsung had acknowledged that the commercial might have been perceived as insensitive by some viewers, and would not be airing the ad again in Britain.

The company had told the ASA that the unsafe element highlighted in the complaints had related to the risk of “predatory individuals” rather than the act of running alone at night itself.

Samsung had also argued that there was a risk of harmful gender stereotyping if advertising rules did not allow commercials to show women engaging in activities which presented a risk of being attacked, but allowed men to be shown participating in the same activity.

Samsung was not available for comment on the ASA’s decision when contacted by Fortune.

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