British watchdog ASA bans two ads over sexist stereotypes

A Volkwagen advert showed a man and a woman asleep in a tent next to a cliff face

A Volkwagen advert showed a man and a woman asleep in a tent next to a cliff face

The ad featured sleeping woman and a man in a tent on a sheer cliff face, two male astronauts floating in a space ship and a male para-athlete with a prosthetic leg doing the long jump before a final scene showed a woman sitting on a bench next to a pram.

The Advertising Standards Authority banned the ads, for Volkswagen and Philadelphia cream cheese, following complaints from the public that they perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

Critics said the new rules were too draconian and that banning even the most innocuous use of gender stereotypes showed the watchdog had gone too far.

Under the new rules that came into effect in the United Kingdom on June 14, ads "must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence".

Some 128 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the Mondelez advert for its Philadelphia cheese which featured two dads leaving a baby on a restaurant buffet conveyor belt as they were distracted by the food.

A second commercial for Philadelphia cream cheese showed two dads looking after their children at a restaurant with a conveyer belt.

One person complained to the ASA that the ad "perpetuated a harmful stereotype" by suggesting men were "incapable of caring for children" and "would place them at risk as a result of their incompetence". While chatting they accidentally find their babies are whisked away on it. "Let's not tell mum", one of them says.

It prompted three complaints from viewers, and the ASA found it showed a woman "engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role".

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The ASA banned the ad, saying it reinforced the idea that men were ineffective childcarers. It said it was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

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

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

"It was never our intention to cause any offence with our new Philadelphia advert", a spokesperson told the Telegraph back in June, when the ad first aired and began sparking outrage.

The "dopey Dads" commercial, as some social media users have dubbed it, was produced by the global confectionery, food and beverage company Mondelez, which owns Philadelphia.

"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.

A study by data and consultancy firm Kantar showed less than one in ten adverts have an authoritative female in it, despite research which shows consumers respond better to women than men in adverts.

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