Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Gorilla Glue Europe Ltd (Gorilla Glue)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 12 July 2023
Law stated as at: 7 August 2023
The ASA did not uphold a complaint against a TV ad for Gorilla Glue, which was challenged on the basis that it perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes about parental roles.
The TV ad in question featured a father and his children playing with a ball in a living room. The father falls over and knocks various items off a table, breaking them. The father is then seen using super glue to fix the broken items. A voiceover throughout the ad stated, “Uh-oh, someone’s in trouble. Or perhaps not. You see, Gorilla Super Glue fixes all kinds of breaks quickly. And mum stays none the wiser. For the toughest jobs on planet Earth.”
The complainant believed the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by suggesting that fathers were fun and playful, in contrast to mothers being more responsible, serious and concerned about tidiness. They, therefore, challenged whether the ad breached the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) rule 4.14, which states that advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
In its decision, the ASA considered the guidance to this rule, which states that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles, but should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics are always uniquely associated with one gender. The guidance provides examples that are likely to be unacceptable, including “a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess” and “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.”
Though the ASA acknowledged that the father was portrayed in a light-hearted and boisterous manner, playing sports indoors with his children, he was also presented as the parent looking after his children in a house which was, and remained, clean and tidy. The father also took care to repair the objects.
As such, the ASA considered that the ad still depicted the father as capable of being responsible as well as fun. The mother did not appear in the ad, but the ASA did not consider that viewers would understand from the ad that being fun and playful when looking after children was a stereotypical role uniquely associated with fathers.
Although the ad made clear that fixing a household item would avoid the father and sons being “in trouble” with the mother, the ASA did not think that the ad implied that was because the mother was the only member of the household concerned about tidiness.
Because the ad did not suggest that fathers were focused on having fun while mothers were concerned with tidiness, as they were responsible for keeping a house tidy, the ASA concluded that the ad did not perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and did not breach the BCAP Code.
Why this matters:
The decision provides a reminder of the nuanced approach the ASA takes on gender stereotypes, following the introduction of BCAP Code rule 4.14 in 2019. Whilst the ASA recognises that gender stereotypes are often harmful, the full context in which those stereotypes are presented will always be considered. In any case, advertisers should ensure that their adverts do not suggest stereotypical roles or characteristics are always uniquely associated with one gender.