Why on earth did the Katona pay-day loan ad get banned?

"Fast cash for fast lives" comes under ASA's watchful gaze.

Ex Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona recently made headlines once again for being a minor celebrity without much cash. This time, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has banned payday loan company Cash Lady’s advert starring Katona, as it could be seen as "irresponsible".

Payday loan companies, such as Cash Lady or Wonga, offer high interest loans intended to be paid back on the day of your next pay check. Cash Lady offers loans of up to £300 a month with an annual percentage rate of 2,760. For example, if you borrow £200 from Cash Lady for 28 days you will pay back £258 on payday.

It’s no secret that payday loans are often seen as a slippery slope; borrowing £200 and paying back over 125 per cent of that can’t exactly be seen as responsible money management. However, it is also true that sometimes payday loans may be, to those who use them, the only way out of a sticky situation.

Why did the ASA ban the advert, I hear you cry. Everyone knows the sky high nature of payday loan interest rates and that Kerry Katona has herself had money problems (she was declared bankrupt in 2008 for failing to pay her tax bill). Cash Lady claimed they chose Katona because the public could relate to her, making her a face a beacon of hope.

However, the problem the ASA had with the advertisement featuring Katona wasn’t so much a problem with the “star” but with the branding of Cash Lady. The advert stated that the payday loan company provides "fast cash for fast lives", which may purport to the public that the payday loan option isn’t only for emergencies but also can be used to fund a "fast life," like that of Katona’s.

Advertising is often sexy, it’s often weird and quirky, and it needs to be eye catching but most of all it needs to appeal to the audience. "Fast cash for fast lives" certainly appeals to those who need money to quickly sort out their problems – however, with the face of a celebrity one can see how the ASA could see it as problematic to allow an advert that showed a short term solution to what is sometimes a more long term problem with celebrity endorsement.

I doubt it will be long until payday loan companies are asked to attach a warning to their adverts akin to those on alcohol adverts. After all, payday loans can become an addiction. 

Kerry Katona. Photograph: Getty Images

Katy Maydon is a journalist for Retail Banker International

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Our trade unions are doing more for women than ever before

You don’t have to look far to find examples of unions not just “noisily fighting for”, but actually winning better pay, terms and conditions for women.

Reading Carole Easton’s article on women and unions was puzzling and disappointing in equal measure. Puzzling because it paints a picture of trade unions which bears little resemblance to the movement I know and love. Disappointing because it presents a false image of trade unions to women readers just at a time when women need strong trade unions more than ever.

While it is right to say that too little progress has been made in closing the gender pay gap or tackling the scourge of zero hour contracts, it is wrong to suggest that trade unions have been twiddling their thumbs.

Like our friends at the Young Women’s Trust, equality is at the heart of what unions do. This work isn’t measured in the number of high-profile women we have at the forefront of our movement – although we’re not doing too badly there, as anyone will attest who has seen Frances O’Grady, the first female general secretary of the TUC, speaking out for ordinary women workers.  

Trade unions contribute to equality for our 3 million women members every day. For us, that’s about the thousands of workplace reps supporting individual women facing discrimination or harassment. It’s about health and safety reps negotiating for protective clothing and better workplace policies on the menopause, terminal illness and many more issues. Our work is unions taking employment tribunal cases on behalf of women who could never afford the tribunal fees without us. And always, at the heart of everything, our work is about the collective power of workers joining together to bargain for fair pay and decent work.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of unions not just “noisily fighting for”, but actually winning better pay, terms and conditions for women. Several unions have successfully organised cleaners, supported them to take strike action for better pay, and won. The RMT is just one example of many. Unite is busy organising London’s low-paid and often exploited hotel workers. Unison organises teaching assistants, fights for better pay and conditions, and even runs a Skills for Schools project to help TAs develop in their careers. Unison and the National Union of Teachers – both unions with over 75% female membership – organise childcare workers and fight not just for better pay but also for training and development opportunities. Over in the retail sector, Usdaw and GMB are fighting the good fight for their women members in supermarkets and shops, not just on pay but on pensions, health and safety, carers’ leave and protection from violence at work.

Women have much to gain from trade union membership. Male union members are paid 7.8 per cent more than men who aren’t in a union – but women union members are paid 30 per cent more than non-members. A recent EHRC report on pregnancy discrimination found that employers who recognised unions were less likely to discriminate against their pregnant employees.

Yes, it’s true that too few young women are union members. This summer, the TUC and our member unions will launch a new organising and campaigning effort to spread the benefits of union membership and attract a new generation of women (and men).

But starting new women-only unions is no form of progress. That’s where we started out over 100 years ago. Now women workers are at the heart of all our unions, across all sectors. Women’s concerns at work are trade union concerns. And every day we make practical progress towards women’s equality at work through patient representation and negotiation and active campaigning to challenge bad bosses. Young Women’s Trust should work with us to get more women the benefit of union membership.  

Scarlet Harris is women's equality policy officer at the TUC