An advert for Volkswagen has become one of the first to be banned under new rules aimed at combatting gender stereotyping.
The ad for the e-Golf electric car was judged to have promoted “harmful” stereotypes under new legislation introduced two months ago.
It was first aired on 14 June, the day the new rules came into force, and showed a number of male characters engaged in adventurous activities in contrast to a woman in a “care-giving” role.
Three people complained about the commercial to the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), which found the it breached new rules regarding “harm and offence”.
The advert in question showed male astronauts floating in a spaceship, a male athlete with a prosthetic leg doing the long jump, and another man camping on a cliff edge.
It also showed a woman sitting on a bench next to a pram.
VW bosses claimed the “core message” of the ad was centred on the “ability of the human spirit to adapt to challenges and change”.
The car firm did not believe that a climber, astronaut, or athlete competing in a Paralympic sport were gender stereotypical roles or occupations.
VW bosses stated that the characters were “shown performing actions that were not stereotypical to one gender”.
But the ASA rejected VW’s claims and upheld the complaints.
New advertising rules
The new rules state that “advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
Gender-stereotypical roles and characteristics include occupations or attributes usually associated with a specific gender.
An ASA spokesman said of the VW ad: “While the majority of the ad was focused 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.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
Another advert created for Philadelphia cheese was also banned under the same rules by the ASA.
That ad showed two men looking after new babies when one of them leaves his on a restaurant conveyor belt.
One person complained to the ASA that the “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.”
Bosses at Mondelez UK, the makers of Philadelphia, said the ad was intended to highlight the product’s appeal by showing a “humorous” situation in which parents found it so delicious they got momentarily distracted from looking after their children.
But the complaint was again upheld by the ASA.