A Mondelēz advert for its Philadelphia cream cheese brand has come under fire for perpetuating the stereotype that men are incapable of caring for children.
The advertisement depicts two fathers looking after their newborns in a restaurant. Standing in front of a conveyer belt serving buffet food, the men become distracted by first selecting and then eating their lunch. The new fathers have accidentally placed their babies on the moving conveyer belt. When they notice, one of the men says to his baby: ‘Let’s not tell Mum’.
According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the advertisement breaches the committee of advertising practice (CAP) code and UK code of broadcast advertising (BCAP), which state that “Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
While the ASA acknowledged Mondelēz’s advert was intended to be light-hearted and comical, since there was no sense that the children were in danger, the authority said the men were portrayed as ‘somewhat hapless and inattentive’, which meant that they were “unable to care for the children effectively”.
Further, the scene where the father says to his child “Let’s not tell Mum” relied on the stereotype that men were less capable of caring for children than women, the ASA continued.
As a result, the advertisement was deemed to breach BCAP Code rule 4.14 (Harm and offence) as well as CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.9 (Harm and office).
Mondelēz ‘extremely disappointed’
The ASA told Mondelēz the ad must not appear again in its current form, and to ensure their advertising doesn't perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes in the future. This includes suggestions that stereotypical roles or characteristics are always uniquely associated with one gender.
A Mondelēz International spokesperson said the company is ‘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. This includes pre-approval from a recognised television advertising body before any advert is aired to the public.”
The ‘television advertising body’ in question is Clearcast, a non-governmental organisation which pre-approves most British television advertising before it appears on the UK’s main commercial channels.
According to Clearcast, the advertisement had been investigated under a new gender stereotyping rule that came into force on June 14th this year.
The advertising body said it considered the Philadelphia ad ‘light-hearted’, showing no more than a “momentary lapse in concentration with no harm done, rather than incompetence.”
It concluded that the ad did not show the men failing to achieve a task because of their gender.
“We are naturally disappointed that the ASA didn’t share our view of the [advert] it has ruled against. Its interpretation of the ads against the new rule and guidance goes further than we had anticipated and has implications for a wide range of ads.
“Clearcast will use these rulings in assessing future ads where gender stereotypes might be considered harmful,” noted the advertising body.