Volkswagen and Philadelphia cream cheese ads banned over gender stereotypes

Esequiel Farfan
Agosto 14, 2019

The ad for Volkswagen's electric eGolf vehicle showed a series of scenes including a man and a woman in a tent on a sheer cliff face, two male astronauts, a male para-athlete and a woman sitting on a bench next to a pram.

The Advertising Standards Authority said Volkswagen caused offence by showing men in adventurous activities in contrast to a woman in a "care-giving" role.

The move came after only a tiny number of complaints - three people protested at the Volkswagen electric auto advert and only one objected to Philadelphia's commercial.

New rules that came into force in June prohibit depictions of gender that "are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offense".

Meanwhile, Philadelphia's "humorous" advert - in which a father eats "delicious" cheese while his baby rides on a conveyor belt in a restaurant - was said to brand men incapable of caring for children.

The first banned ad, for Philadelphia cheese, showed two fathers leaving a baby on a restaurant conveyor belt.

The complaints insisted the ad perpetuated gender stereotypes by showing "men engaged in adventurous activities in contrast to a woman in a care-giving role". "Let's not tell Mum", he says with an embarrassed smirk after scooping up the tot", another user tweeted.

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Complainants said the ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype by suggesting that men can not care for children and that their incompetence would place them at risk.

The company added that it chose two dads to deliberately avoid the typical stereotype of new mothers with the responsibility of childcare.

"We considered, however, that the men were portrayed as somewhat hapless and inattentive, which resulted in them being unable to care for the children effectively", they added.

"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.

"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. As it stands, the ASA's definition of "harm" is unworkable and urgently needs to be clarified.

Clearcast, the body responsible for vetting ads before they are broadcast, also expressed its frustration at the decisions.

"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. "The ASA's interpretation of the ads against the new rule and guidance goes further than we anticipated and has implications for a wide range of ads".

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