ASA bans first ads under new ‘harmful gender stereotypes’ rules

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

Mondelez and Volkswagen have become the first brands to have their ads banned by the Advertising Standards Authority under new rules on harmful gender stereotypes.

The ads, which include one for Mondelez soft cheese brand Philadelphia and another for Volkwagen’s eGolf electric car range.

Both have been banned in the UK by the ASA, with neither ad allowed to appear again in its current form.

Male bias

The Mondelez UK spot, which ran across live TV and video on demand in June, featured two men leaving their babies on a conveyor belt after being distracted by food, followed by one of the men saying: "Let's not tell mum".

“We recognised that the ad depicted new parents and could therefore be seen as a characterisation of new parents as inexperienced and learning how to adapt to parenthood”, the ASA said. 

“We also recognised that, regardless of their gender, it was common for parents to ask their children (often jokingly) not to tell their other parent about something that had happened. 

“However, in combination with the opening scene in which one of the babies was handed over by the mother to the father, and the final scene in which one of the fathers said “Let’s not tell mum”, we considered the ad relied on the stereotype that men were unable to care for children as well as women and implied that the fathers had failed to look after the children properly because of their gender.

Brands defend ads

Mondelez, together with agency Clearcast and broadcaster ITV all defended the ad spot, with Mondelez arguing that the ad showed a positive image of men with an active parental role in modern society.

However, the ASA said the ad perpetuated a stereotype that men are ineffective at childcare and ruled the ad must not appear again.

Harmful stereotype: Volkswagen's eGolf banned by ASA

Volkswagen UK's TV ad for its eGolf range of electric cars was also banned for juxtaposing scenes of men as adventurous with a woman in a “care-giving role”. 

The ad featured male astronauts and para-athletes in active pursuits, whilst women were portrayed as sleeping or sitting next to a pram. 

The ASA said the ad gave the impression that those activities were exclusively associated with one gender.

Volkswagen Group UK Ltd said the core message of the ad was centred on the ability of the human spirit to adapt to challenges and change brought about by circumstances. 

“By juxtaposing images of men in extraordinary environments and carrying out adventurous activities with women who appeared passive or engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role, we considered that the ad directly contrasted stereotypical male and female roles and characteristics in a manner that gave the impression that they were exclusively associated with one gender”, the ASA said. 

“We concluded that the ad presented gender stereotypes in way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code.”

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