The international chain of convenience stores Circle K has offered a public apology in Mexico after it tweeted an offer which was widely decried as sexist on social media.
The ad urged shoppers to mark “Secretary Day” by buying a special “combo” consisting of a bottle of wine, a chocolate bar and a packet of condoms for their secretary.
It was quickly panned on Twitter for promoting stereotypes of women.
Circle K has withdrawn the ad.
Mexico honours different professions on days across the year. Celebrations normally do not go much beyond a card, a message sent on social media or a small gift, traditionally chocolate or flowers.
Local shops often have promotions to mark these days, which in the case of “Secretary Day”, is celebrated on the third Wednesday in July.
But rather than honouring secretaries, many Mexicans felt that the offer advertised on Tuesday on Circle K convenience stores’ official Twitter account did exactly the opposite.
The ad showed three offers, two of them were for a bottle of wine and a chocolate bar. But the third added a pack of condoms to the “combo” worth 199 Mexican pesos ($10; £8).
The text above it reads: “Happy day to all the secretaries. Celebrate with them the proper way with this executive combo.”
The word used for secretary in the ad is “secretaria”, which is female in Spanish and therefore would only be taken to apply to women. Further down, the word “executive combo” is followed by the suggestive phrase in English in brackets: “If you know what I mean”.
Mexican Senator Patricia Mercado was one of those to flag up the ad on Twitter and its subsequent removal by Circle K.
Senator Mercado said that not only was the ad sexist for “reproducing gender stereotypes and misogyny by insinuating that the recognition secretaries deserve is of a sexual nature, but also because it promotes sexual harassment and bullying at work”.
In its apology [in Spanish], Circle K said that it “deeply regrets the contents published on social media, which aimed to publicise an offer and never to promote any stereotype whatsoever”.
Circle K also said that it had “taken the necessary measure so something like this does not happen again”.
Sexual harassment and gender violence is widespread in Mexico. A recent survey suggested that 73% of women employed in the Mexican media had suffered sexual harassment.
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority has banned sexist ads.