Nerd Humor

With geek chic no longer as alluring as it once was, one company has reverted to slamming nerds in its advertising—but in the process has invoked the ire of a women’s tech group in Silicon Valley.

An ad touting Qsol’s computer hardware products that ran in November’s Linux Journal features a photograph of a heavily lipsticked woman next to the headline “Don’t feel bad. Our servers won’t go down on you either.” Small print goes on to suggest, “If your server isn’t giving you what you want, call Qsol.”

GraceNet, a group supporting women in high-tech, responded by slapping Qsol with a “DisGraceful Award” in advertising—a condemnation that’s also been levied in recent months at RCN, Lik Sang International and E-Color. “It’s offensive both to women and to potential male customers—not to mention servers, which are gender neutral,” says GraceNet founder Sylvia Paull. “The ad implies that its customers are men, and that these men aren’t desirable enough to get a blow job.”

Joe Safai, Qsol’s president, says the ad boosted sales significantly, but he has issued an apology and promises not to run it again. “Obviously it pissed off a lot of people. We’re not into that,” he says.