Patterico's Pontifications


UK Bans Ads That Allegedly Perpetuate Harmful Stereotypes

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:26 am

[guest post by Dana]

Draconian measures are the new woke:

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ads for Philadelphia cream cheese and Volkswagen, following complaints from the public that they perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

The new rules, introduced at the beginning of the year, ban the depiction of men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical activities to help stop “limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take”.

In the ad for Philadelphia, the Mondelez-owned cream cheese brand, two new dads were shown eating lunch at a restaurant where food circulated on a conveyor belt. While chatting they accidentally find their babies are whisked away on it. “Let’s not tell mum,” one of them says.

Complainants said the tongue-in-cheek ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype suggesting men were incapable of caring for children and would put them at risk as a result of their incompetence.

Mondelez told the ASA it was stuck in a no-win situation, having specifically chosen two dads to avoid depicting the stereotypical image of showing two new mums handling all the childcare responsibilities.

The ASA banned the ad, saying it reinforced the idea that men were ineffective childcarers.

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. Text stated: “When we learn to adapt we can achieve anything.”

Complainants said the ad showed men engaged in adventurous activities, that unlike her male counterpart, the female rock climber was “passive” because she was asleep, and that the woman with the pram was depicted in a stereotypical care-giving role.

Volkswagen said its ad was not sexist and that caring for a newborn was a life-changing experience about adaptation, regardless of the gender of the parent depicted.

The ASA, however, “concluded that the ad presented gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm”.

Here are the harmful ads:

First impressions:

With the first banned ad, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have confirmed that they have no discernible sense of humor. Does any rational adult really believe that the commercial insults men? Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m inclined to give *adults* the benefit of the doubt in being able to discern reality from fiction, and deciding for themselves whether the two charming dads being distracted by food as their babies ride on the conveyor belt are really representative of every dad. And if dad’s are a bit more unfocused, is it not o.k. to tease them about it?

With the second ad, the ASA has demonstrated that they really have not adapated to anything other than being narrow-minded prigs. The watchdog group offensively devalue motherhood with their decision to ban the second ad as they assume that the new mom sitting on the park bench with her baby *isn’t* already involved in an even more serious activity, where, for the next 18 years the demand for adaptation will be life-changing and relentless.

The ASA takes on an impossible task because with every “success” will come “failure.” Most people won’t be happy with the outcome because across the spectrum, someone, somewhere will feel that the ban of X excludes their tribe as it elevates another tribe. By narrowing the standard of what is allowed, there comes an automatic increase in the number of those excluded from approval. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so why not let individuals make the decision for themselves? Why?
Because that’s not in the best interest of the State, and that is what this is really all about: pushing an agenda that a few are charged with deeming what is best for the many. This is why they have stopped letting reasonable ads play, and letting people decide whether they want to purchase the product as a result of what they’ve seen. This is why they can no longer trust adults to make their own decisions. Moreover, perception is everything: Rather than seeing a woman relegated to sleeping while her mate gets up early to go out adventuring, perhaps she’s just damn tired from all the climbing and hiking she did the day before and the extra rest is a well-deserved, longed-for treat. I’ve been her. I know it to be true. Instead of the man getting up to go have fun without her because he’s that selfish, perhaps in his thoughtfulness toward her, he doesn’t bother to wake her, knowing she wants to sleep in, thus he moves carefully and quietly so that his woman can sleep a little longer with only the quiet stillness of early morning as her company.

Advertising expert Geraint Lloyd-Taylor put it bluntly:

It is concerning to see the ASA take on the role of the morality police. It has let its zeal to enforce the new rules override its common sense in this first batch of rulings.

And it’s ironic that the ASA doesn’t even see that it is they who are now limiting people’s choices because of their narrow-minded scope of acceptability:

The ASA’s Ella Smillie, who helped to devise the new rules, said: “We don’t see ourselves as social engineers, we’re reflecting the changing standards in society. Changing ad regulation isn’t going to end gender inequality but we know advertising can reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, which can limit people’s choices or potential in life.”

Funny, if anything, this is the very definition of social engineering. It reminds me of Harrison Bergeron and what happened when the State sought to create an across-the-board equal utopia and ended up dooming people to a nightmarish dystopia of suppression and oppression:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


51 Responses to “UK Bans Ads That Allegedly Perpetuate Harmful Stereotypes”

  1. Make sure you watch both ads.

    Dana (fdf131)

  2. Heh! Where Great Britain used to be.

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Also, God bless George Washington.

    nk (dbc370)

  4. Amen, nk.

    Dana (fdf131)

  5. Great post, Dana — until this:

    [. . .] thus he moves carefully and quietly so that his woman can sleep a little longer with only the quiet stillness of early morning as her company.

    “His” woman, Dana? His woman? Gracious me, I think I’ll repair to my fainting couch.

    On a serious note: you hit it absolutely right that once some bureaucracy starts down this path, there is no way for them to make these judgements solely based upon their own biases. Why Great Britain ever thought they needed and Advertising Standards Authority is beyond me, but this is the exact sort of thing we need to prevent from being launched over on this side of the Atlantic. (Not you, Canada; you are already too far gone and no doubt have an ASA of your own.)

    JVW (54fd0b)

  6. Heh. I loved slipping that little nugget in there. Happy you caught it. And consider how offensive it would’ve been for me to assume they were married and identify them as “his wife” or “her husband”… I mean, imagine where that sort of madness could lead!

    Dana (fdf131)

  7. It’s easy to see the social justice crowd (or whatever we’re calling them these days) jump on something like this because it check all their boxes. If that pesky 1A wasn’t in the way, they’d have already made it a reality here.

    Dana (fdf131)

  8. The objective of advertising in this medium is to breakthrough the noise, attract attention and get people talking. Controversy is gold.

    Philly & VW have succeeded; kudos to their shops.

    Never forget VW’s against-the-rules, highly successful ad campaign for their VW Beetle. It all began with the offensive headline: “Think small.”

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  9. Big Brother knows best.

    Dave (1bb933)

  10. This from the country that gave us the great Benny Hill.

    mg (8cbc69)

  11. With three messes that the Brits left behind when they retreated to their sooty little island, Palestine, Hong Kong, and Kashmir, in the news in the same week, I can only feel schadenfreude at the British chickens coming home to roost (and you can take that literally as well as figuratively).

    nk (dbc370)

  12. The Uk’s focus on the important challenges they’ve managed to create for themselves is an inspiration.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  13. don’t forget aden, that was earlier in the week, a coaling station from 1859, about Kashmir, rushdie doesn’t even have a clue, about why those three wars were fought over the line of control,

    narciso (d1f714)

  14. If these innocuous ads are their first banned commercials, what happens when the watchdog group really gets warmed up?

    Dana (fdf131)

  15. Now we know why the Brits withheld evidence about the abuse, false imprisonment and rape of over 1,400 children for over 20 years in Rothingham by Pakistani, Kurdish and other Asian gangs, they didn’t want to offend the parents or create harmful stereotypes.

    harkin (58d012)

  16. It is concerning to see the ASA take on the role of the morality police.

    If that was all, it would be like the old CBS Standards & Practices. But to say that understates the case would be to understate the case.

    The roles they’ve taken on are national scold, thought police, conformity enforcers, arbiters of personal behavior, and general all-around Secular Humanist Church Lady.

    Abandon all sense of humor, ye who enter here.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  17. After Brexit they’ve got a bit of sorting out to do.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  18. VW should have claimed that the woman on the bench was biologically male, and all would have been well.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  19. Another big unintended consequence to these ASA social engineers monkeying around like this, is the financial and economic impact it will have on everyone, from advertising firms to actors to industry people, etc. And given these hall monitor’s self-righteous love of power, I don’t see them being consistently restrained in their decision-making but rather I see the power being pretty intoxicating as they earnestly work hard to reform the public’s view of issue into a more correct one. IOW, they are on a mission.

    Dana (fdf131)

  20. they are on a mission.

    The Nazi book burners were on no less of one.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  21. The USA needs to pass a law that no more than 50% of TV commercials can show a person of color. really, i was watching a Sports event at a restaurant and i swear 90% of the commercials had POC’s in them. The only combo I didn’t see was a White Husband with a Black Wife and mulatto kids.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  22. “mulatto”


    Davethulhu (bc6fa6)

  23. Are you being serious, rcocean?

    Dana (fdf131)

  24. Oceania! Oceania! Oceania! Tis for thee! For real, the Oceania national anthem from 1984. Prole-tested, Ingsoc-approved.

    nk (dbc370)

  25. I have yet to see any tv ad featuring Inuit Americans. And Oceanic Islanders are rarely included in Cadillac and BMW ads. We have a long way to go!

    Gary Hoffman (7ec1de)

  26. Sometimes I even surprise myself with my comments.

    “Prole-tested, Ingsoc-approved.” Think it’ll catch on?

    nk (dbc370)

  27. rcocean,

    I’m thinking you ought to see Eddie Murphy’s “Boomerang.”

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  28. nk,

    That is such an excellent, if terrible, film.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  29. And Oceanic Islanders are rarely included in Cadillac and BMW ads. We have a long way to go!

    Also people with Downs syndrome disorder or Creutzfeldt-Jacobs disease.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  30. This is what happens when you do not have a First Amendment.

    Good thing the Democrats — every single Democratic senator — supports amending the Constitution to water down the First Amendment.

    Bored Lawyer (423ce8)

  31. Remember they see it as a how to manual, it was re lmarkably faithful to the source material

    Narciso (50a424)

  32. I don’t want to get too holier than thou because we have a commercial speech exception to the First Amendment too. No cigarette commercials since 1971, the most obvious example. I don’t watch enough TV to know … is “Riunite on ice still nice” during “Miller time”? On broadcast TV? On cable?

    nk (dbc370)

  33. @31. Really? Seen or heard a cigarette advertisement on your Yankee Doodle TeeVee or radio lately?

    The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was legislation signed by a Republican, President Richard Nixon, in 1970.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  34. Kevin, when i saw Murphy and his costars on the planes, I thought “not even Delta flights out of Hartsfield or DTW are that deep!”

    urbanleftbehind (847a06)

  35. @33. It’s an EZ trip through YouTubeLand to find a plethora of ‘banned’ ads, films and books- both stateside and overseas. Paris Hilton’s Carl’s Jr., spot aside, TV adverts in Europe, Australia and so on are notoriously more risque by American standards.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  36. He’s a treasure chest full of ancient trivia, useless information and assorted odds and ends…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  37. @37. Take five, Colonel.

    Smoke’em if ‘ya got’em.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  38. I’ve seen whiskey commercials on cable, during the World Series or maybe a golf tournament, but the only TV I usually watch is rated G and not a lot of that either, so I don’t see a lot of adult advertising. I do hear commercials for medical marijuana and casinos on news radio.

    nk (dbc370)

  39. 38… smart guy… yah, put ‘em up, yahhh

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  40. Britain a continually well-demonstrated case of ‘lose the Second Amendment, lose the First and all others in time.’

    Compassionate BDSism (d03816)

  41. We’re still a long way from an Advertising Standards Authority, though. Even with commercial speech,

    “At the outset, we must determine whether the expression is protected by the First Amendment. For commercial speech to come within that provision, it at least must concern lawful activity and not be misleading. Next, we ask whether the asserted governmental interest is substantial. If both inquiries yield positive answers, we must determine whether the regulation directly advances the governmental interest asserted, and whether it is not more extensive than is necessary to serve that interest.”

    nk (dbc370)

  42. Te days of ‘scattershot’ advertising have pretty much ended thanks to the science of audience research. Even back in the day, print ad could be targeted to magazine subscribers by zip code– even by city block. It’s come a long way since then, too. If the demographics of your target audience determine they are more or less prudes, they’re going to be pitched ‘prudish’ ads. If the target audience are nude beachgoers, they’re gonna get pitched w/more risque content– and lots of suntan lotion spots.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  43. @22. That should tell you a lot; mainly, that the demographics of the viewers advertisers want to reach watching televised sporting events in the country are changing.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  44. If the international man of mystery had chatted up Maggie Thatcher better on the lawn of the Russian embassy in a snowstorm on Christmas ever, their once great country wouldn’t continue to careen down such a n absurd path.

    JD (734fdd)

  45. The reason we don’t need this kind of supervision here is that advertisers know that something that is truly tasteless (several Gillette ads come to mind) will repel the customers they hope to persuade.

    I mean, consider a Southern Comfort ad with Klan robes and blackface. Not only would no station show it, but the company would still get pilloried for it.

    Of course, smokers are fair game, but government control of advertising won’t help that anyway.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  46. “Good government” is an oxymoron.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  47. @33, 34 — The fact that there are narrow exceptions to the First Amendment does not mean that we do not have much more robust protection of free speech than they do in Britain.

    “Commercial speech” is not an exception to the First Amendment. It is just that restrictions on commercial speech are reviewed less stringently than other types of speech. There have still been plenty of cases of commercial speech where the First Amendment has been enforced.

    As for other countries, the First Amendment protects against Government censorship. Not private censorship. Could be that other countries have different tastes and tolerances.

    And, national TV, because it reaches a wider audience, tends to be blander than more targeted media, like Youtube or cable (not to mention other parts of the internet). All of that is private decisions, which is what you would expect where you have a free speech regime coupled with a very varied set of technological meda.

    Bored Lawyer (423ce8)

  48. “Commercial speech” is not an exception to the First Amendment. It is just that restrictions on commercial speech are reviewed less stringently than other types of speech. There have still been plenty of cases of commercial speech where the First Amendment has been enforced.

    That’s fair.

    nk (dbc370)

  49. Are you being serious, rcocean?

    Yes, I seriously believe we should get rid of the 1st Amendment and establish racial quotas for TV commercials. And I seriously believe congress and Trump will support it.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  50. @48. ‘Narrow exceptions?’

    You might do well to review the multi-million dollar revenue streams affecting America businesses by sidelining tobacco commercials on radio and television. Or if it’s easier, just watch a few episodes of MadMen as the shop battles to keep Lucky Strike and what happens when they don’t.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

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