United Kingdom bans ads over gender stereotypes in landmark ruling

Lawrence Kim
August 14, 2019

The UK's ad regulator banned two advertisements for following gender stereotypes on Wednesday, marking the first time the watchdog has barred ads since new rules were introduced to combat sexist stereotypes.

The Philadelphia advert featured two men being distracted by the cream cheese snack and forgetting about their babies, which the ASA said "implied that the fathers had failed to look after the children properly because of their gender".

Another broadcast advert for the Volkswagen eGolf vehicle which juxtaposed a male para-athlete with a woman caring for a baby was also found to uphold harmful gender norms. Text stated: "When we learn to adapt we can achieve anything".

Complainants said the ad showed men engaged in adventurous activities, that unlike her male counterpart, the female rock climber was "passive" because she was asleep, and that the woman with the pram was depicted in a stereotypical care-giving role.

It added that the ad represented a "careless, momentary and harmless distraction".

"Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us", Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said in a statement in June.

Ad for Philadelphia, showing a baby on a conveyor belt. "Let's not tell Mum", he says with an embarrassed smirk after scooping up the tot", another user tweeted.

Viewers said the ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype by suggesting that the men were incapable of caring for children.

Mondelez told the ASA it was stuck in a no-win situation, having specifically chosen two dads to avoid depicting the stereotypical image of showing two new mums handling all the childcare responsibilities.

But the Advertising Standards Authority insisted it portrayed the men as "somewhat hapless and inattentive, which resulted in them being unable to care for the children effectively".

The complainants argued that the ad showed men engaged in adventurous activities in contrast with a woman in a care-giving role.

"We hope advertisers will study the portrayals to understand where the boundary lies between depictions of gender stereotypes in ads which are not deemed to be harmful and those now prohibited by the new rule".

"It is concerning to see the ASA take on the role of the morality police", said Geraint Lloyd-Taylor, an advertising expert at the law firm Lewis Silkin.

"We take our advertising responsibility very seriously and work with a range of partners to make sure our marketing meets and complies with United Kingdom regulation", the rep said.

Neither ad can appear in its current form following the ruling.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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