A TV ad for the Volkswagen eGolf, seen on 14 June 2019, opened with a shot of a woman and a man in a tent. The woman was asleep and the man switched off the light and closed the tent, which was shown to be fixed to a sheer cliff face. The
following scene depicted two male astronauts floating in a space ship. Text stated When we learn to adapt. The next scene showed a male para-athlete with a prosthetic leg doing the long jump. Text stated we can achieve anything. The final scene
showed a woman sitting on a bench next to a pram. A Volkswagen eGolf passed by quietly. The woman was shown looking up from her book. Text stated The Golf is electric. The 100% electric eGolf. Issue
Three complainants, who believed that the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by showing men engaged in adventurous activities in contrast to a woman in a care-giving role, challenged whether it breached the Code.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The first scene of the ad showed both a man and a woman in a tent, panning out to show that it was fixed to the side of a cliff and therefore implying that they had both climbed up the steep rock face. However, the woman was shown sleeping, by
contrast with the man in the scene. Furthermore, due to the short duration of the shot and its focus on the movement of the man, it was likely that many viewers would not pick up on the fact that it featured a woman, as was the case with the
The ad then showed two male astronauts carrying out tasks in space and a male para-athlete doing the long jump. We considered that viewers would be likely to see the activities depicted as extraordinary and adventurous -- scientific and
career-based in the case of the astronauts and physical in the case of the athlete. That impression was reinforced by the claim When we learn to adapt, we can achieve anything. While we noted that a third astronaut appeared in the
background, the image was very brief and not prominent. We considered that many viewers would not notice the presence of a third person, and if they did, the image was insufficiently clear to distinguish their gender.
The first two scenes both more prominently featured male characters. While the majority of the ad was focussed on a theme of adapting to difficult circumstances and achievement, the final scene showed a woman sitting on a bench and reading, with
a pram by her side. We acknowledged that becoming a parent was a life changing experience that required significant adaptation, but taking care of children was a role that was stereotypically associated with women.
In context, the final scene (the only one that featured the product) gave the impression that the scenario had been used to illustrate the adaptation and resulting characteristic of the car -- so quiet that it did not wake the baby or register
with the mother -- rather than as a further representation of achievement, particularly as the setting was relatively mundane compared to the other scenarios.
Taking into account the overall impression of the ad, we considered that viewers were likely to focus on the occupations of the characters featured in the ad and observe a direct contrast between how the male and female characters were depicted.
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.
We concluded that the ad presented gender stereotypes in way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Volkswagen Group UK Ltd to ensure their advertising did not present gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm, including by directly contrasting male and female
roles and characteristics in a way that implied they were uniquely associated with one gender.
Offsite Comment: Stereotypically Stupid: The ASA's Latest Slice Of Lunacy
A TV ad and video on demand (VOD) ad for the soft cheese, Philadelphia:
a. The TV ad, seen on 14 June 2019, featured a woman passing a baby to a man who then held the baby in his arms. Another man appeared carrying a baby in a car seat. The first man said New dad, too? and the second man nodded. The scene was
revealed to be a restaurant with a conveyor belt serving buffet food. The men chatted, saying Wow, look at this lunch, Yeah, hard to choose and This looks good, whilst a sitting baby and a car seat were seen on the moving conveyor belt, as the
men were distracted by selecting and eating their lunch. The first man then noticed his baby had gone around the conveyor belt, said errr and argh!, and moved across the room to pick the baby up. The second man picked the baby in the car seat off
of the conveyor belt, and one of the men said Let's not tell mum.
b. The VOD ad, seen on the ITV Hub, on 18 June 2019, featured the same content.
The complainants, who believed the ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype by suggesting that men were incapable of caring for children and would place them at risk as a result of their incompetence, challenged whether the ads were in breach of the
Rather than the ads depicting a harmful stereotype, Clearcast thought the ads depicted an example of a momentary lapse in concentration by somewhat overwhelmed and tired new parents which was quickly realized and rectified. They did not think the
ads showed the new fathers being unable to look after the babies properly because of their gender, but instead it was established early on that they were new dads and unused to dealing with young children. They did not believe the ads were a
representation of all fathers and did not believe it suggested that the fathers in the ads, or fathers more generally, were incapable of parenting.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The CAP and BCAP Code stated Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence. The joint CAP and BCAP guidance said that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical
roles, but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender. The guidance provided examples which were likely to be unacceptable, which included An ad that
depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man's inability to change nappies; a woman's inability to park a car.
We considered the scenario represented two new fathers in sole charge of their children, who both became distracted when choosing their lunch and subsequently failed to notice when the children were carried away on a conveyor belt. We
acknowledged the action was intended to be light-hearted and comical and there was no sense that the children were in danger. 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.
We recognised that the ad depicted new parents and could therefore be seen as a characterisation of new parents as inexperienced and learning how to adapt to parenthood. We also recognised that, regardless of their gender, it was common for
parents to ask their children (often jokingly) not to tell their other parent about something that had happened. However, in combination with the opening scene in which one of the babies was handed over by the mother to the father, and the final
scene in which one of the fathers said Let's not tell mum, we considered the ad relied on the stereotype that men were unable to care for children as well as women and implied that the fathers had failed to look after the children properly
because of their gender.
We also considered that the narrative and humour in the ad derived from the use of the gender stereotype. We did not consider that the use of humour in the ad mitigated the effect of the harmful stereotype; indeed it was central to it, because
the humour derived from the audiences' familiarity with the gender stereotype being portrayed.
We therefore concluded that the ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype, namely that men were ineffective at childcare, and was in breach of the Code.
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.
Wicked Campervans with humorous slogans that offend easily offended politicians would be banned from being registered in all states and territories of Australia, under a plan signed off at a national meeting of transport ministers.
Each state agreed to deregister vans which refused to have humorous slogans taken down following a complaint, and then ensure the van could not simply be re-registered in another jurisdiction.
Queensland Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey has claimed Wicked is exploiting a loophole by registering the vans in other states to get around the ban.