Apologies came thick and fast this year as brand bosses back-peddled over some pretty hair-raising campaign choices! Where were all the intelligent people when these ideas were approved – washing up?

Local bus company, NAT, kicked-off the year by dressing up the back-end of their busses with a beautiful half-naked woman – the caption read; ‘Ride Me All Day For £3’. Parents struggled to explain that as they sat in traffic on the school-run! And … if you missed that opportunity for a leg-over, Italian bicycle manufacturer, Colnago, offered another chance with an image of a young woman bent over a bicycle posing the question; ‘Ready for the weekend ride?’

In June there was a huge uprising across Twitter as scientists voiced their disbelief following Nobel laureate Tim Hunt’s sexist comments about girls in the lab. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he said. “Three things happen when they are in the lab… you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.” In response, the #DistractinglySexy campaign launched on Twitter brilliantly juxtaposed Hunt’s comments, images of scientists at work with comments such as, “I'm really glad that Curie managed to take a break from crying to discover radium and polonium #distractinglysexy.”

In the past, individual or corporate mistakes quickly became yesterday’s news. Now, as fast as brand bosses try to claw back their moral high ground, conversations and counter-campaigns spread like wildfire across social media.

A further brilliant example of catastrophically ‘getting it wrong’ came in August. In celebration of National Women’s Day in South Africa, BIC, the biro people, put this in writing; ‘Look like a girl. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Work like a boss’.

And, rounding off the year, an attempt from IBM to encourage women to consider a career in engineering with their #HackAHairDryer campaign. Despite the massive cock-up, there was inspiration to be found under the hashtag as enraged women explained how they were too busy being nano-technologists, astro-physicists and awesome-chemists to muck about with hair dryers. 

The London Fire Brigade were wise to steer clear of the sexism debate, but carefully added more fuel to the fire – suggesting that hacking a hair dryer was “generally a bad idea and possibly a bit dangerous”!

Perhaps in 2016 we’ll ring in the changes – rampant sexism is so last year!

Hack a Hairdryer