Say good­bye to down­trod­den mums

The in­dus­try is ex­pected to see new rules on gen­der stereo­typ­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing fol­low­ing the re­lease of an ASA re­port. It’s about time

Campaign UK - - PROMOTION -

“Could this be the end of Christ­mas ads show­ing mums shoul­der­ing the bur­den?”

What was your re­la­tion­ship with your grand­fa­ther? When­ever we visit my mum’s par­ents in Manch­ester, my grand­dad is al­ways ready to feed us. When

I was lit­tle, he used to do this fan­tas­ti­cal fried mix of cheese and onion. It wasn’t the most so­phis­ti­cated dish but, mopped up with a cou­ple of slices of War­bur­tons Milk Roll, it was a great treat. He’s since moved on to putting on a buf­fet.

I’m not sure if it’s mem­o­ries of my grand­dad’s culi­nary ex­ploits – or the fact that my dad does most of the cook­ing at home – but I strug­gled with Mother’s “Cooks” ad for Ikea last year. In it, the grand­mother and mother of a girl leave her in the un­qual­i­fied clutches of her grand­fa­ther, with the im­plo­ration not to for­get her lunch. De­spite the spot be­ing stylis­ti­cally im­pres­sive and deftly di­rected, and the story be­ing lightly told, I could never stop my­self baulk­ing at the idea of a man in his old age be­ing tested by the sim­ple task of mak­ing lunch.

So it was with some in­ter­est that I read the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Au­thor­ity’s re­port on gen­der stereo­typ­ing this week. De­pic­tions, Per­cep­tions and Harm pro­vides stacks of ev­i­dence for stronger reg­u­la­tion for ads por­tray­ing stereo­typ­i­cal gen­der roles, in­clud­ing those that mock peo­ple for not con­form­ing. Among the de­pic­tions the ASA lists as po­ten­tially prob­lem­atic in the fu­ture is an ad that “fea­tures a man try­ing and fail­ing to un­der­take sim­ple parental or house­hold tasks”.

The re­port fol­lows the pub­lic’s re­ac­tion to the Pro­tein World furore in 2015. Oh, for a time when it was Tube ads rather than things the chan­cel­lor and the US pres­i­dent said that most up­set fem­i­nists. If you can re­mem­ber, the ad was ac­tu­ally banned for the health claims it made about its Slim­fast-es­que shakes. But most peo­ple who com­plained were sim­ply cross with the im­age of a thin, bikini-clad woman in a provoca­tive pose be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by the ques­tion: “Are you beach body ready?”

This new re­port pro­vides the Com­mit­tee of Ad­ver­tis­ing Prac­tice with ev­i­dence to up­date its rules on ads por­tray­ing gen­der stereo­types that might – through their con­tent and con­text – be po­ten­tially harm­ful. The re­port stops short of rec­om­mend­ing that CAP bans work fea­tur­ing women clean­ing but it will force brands to think twice be­fore de­pict­ing a woman sin­gle-hand­edly clean­ing up all the mess cre­ated by the fam­ily. Could this be the end of Christ­mas ads show­ing down­trod­den mums shoul­der­ing the bur­den? I’m look­ing at you, Asda.

No-one needs me to say that gen­der is in­creas­ingly com­plex. Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent views and com­plaints should be con­sid­ered rather than up­held with­out ex­am­i­na­tion. We had a sit­u­a­tion of our own re­cently when a ju­nior mem­ber of the in­dus­try took um­brage at some­thing a se­nior fig­ure had cho­sen as their se­cret work weapon. As a prac­ti­cal guide that takes cur­rent rules fur­ther but uses “harm” as its mea­sure, the new rules should guide brands and their agen­cies to do the right thing over gen­der.

Let’s have more dads mak­ing their heart­bro­ken daugh­ters shep­herd’s pie and fewer grand­dads re­sort­ing to tinned soup.

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