A television advertisement by Mondelez UK is one of the first to be banned under new advertising rules around harmful gender stereotyping introduced in Britain earlier this year.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), received 128 complaints about an ad for Philadelphia soft cheese which featured two dads who become distracted by food in a restaurant and abandon their babies on a conveyor belt serving buffet food.
Viewer complaints suggested the ad perpetuated a “harmful stereotype” by suggesting that men are incapable of caring for children and challenged whether the ads were in breach of the new Code. The rules which came into effect on June 14, state that adverts “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
Mondelez UK Ltd said the ad intended to show a humorous situation in which parents found the product so delicious they got momentarily distracted from looking after their children. They argued that rather than a “harmful stereotype”, the a showed a “positive image of men with a responsible and active role in childcare in modern society”.
The snacking giant said it chose two dads to deliberately avoid the typical stereotype of two new mothers with the childcare responsibilities, and because men are a growing market for their product.
Clearcast, a non-governmental organisation which pre-approves most British television advertising, believed the ads showed a momentary lapse in concentration by overwhelmed and tired new parents and did not think they showed the new fathers as being unable to look after the babies properly because of their gender.
The ASA said that while the ad was intended to be light-hearted and comical, it portrayed the men as “somewhat hapless and inattentive, which resulted in them being unable to care for the children effectively” and ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form.
“We told Mondelez Ltd to ensure their advertising did not perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes, including suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender,” the ASA said.
A Mondelez spokeswoman said: “We are extremely disappointed with the ASA decision. We take our advertising responsibility very seriously and work with a range of partners to make sure our marketing meets and complies with all UK regulation.”