The United Nations entity for gender equality has praised the UK’s advertising watchdog for its decision to ban two ads that “presented gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm”, while others aren’t so pleased.
Having introduced tough new regulations around stereotypes in advertising at the beginning of the year, the Advertising Standards Authority was recently able to put the reforms into action.
The first of the banned ads, a short video for Philadelphia cream cheese, depicted two ‘dopey dads’ that become distracted once they indulge in the cheese and leave their babies on a conveyer belt.
“We concluded that the ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype, namely that men were ineffective at childcare, and was in breach of the Code,” the ASA said in its ruling of the Philadelphia ad.
The other ad was for Volkswagen and featured males engaged in adventurous activities alongside women sleeping or caring for children.
“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.
Volkswagen UK head of marketing for Geraldine Ingham disagreed with the ASA’s ruling.
“As both a leader within this business and as a mother, I do not believe that the roles of the women in this advertisement are in any way portrayed negatively,” she said.
“Just like the men, they are shown taking part in challenging situations, such as in a tent perched on a mountainside and in a spacecraft, while another is shown to be embarking on what is surely life’s greatest and most valuable role – raising another human being.”
Both ads had been the subject of numerous complaints, prompting the watchdog to investigate the campaigns under its new regulations.
— Nick Lambert (@N1ckLambert) August 14, 2019
A third ad by Nestlé which featured a female ballet dancer, a male drummer and a male rower each practising their craft at different ages was not banned.
And while the decision inevitably attracted some outrage on social media, it drew praise at the top end of town.
UN Women director of strategic partnerships and lead for the Unstereotype Alliance Dan Seymour said: “It is encouraging to see the impact the UK’s ASA guidelines are already having and that the commitments made to ending stereotypes in advertising are serious.
“Harmful gender stereotypes have profound consequences. They are behind different forms of discrimination, from limiting women’s leadership roles to reducing their economic opportunity. They underlie significant problems of violence against women, something experienced by an estimated one in three women in the world, with consequences that threaten women’s lives.”
Conservative Party cabinet minister Liz Truss condemned the ruling, writing “we should be a beacon of freedom not a beacon of banning”, on Twitter.