Sunday, 11 November 2012

Asda’s Christmas Ad Controversy: Sexism in Advertising

Asda’s Christmas 2012 ad has caused quite a stir. Instead the of the usual romanticized images of fluffy snow, velvety red cushions and relaxed happy family Saatchi & Saatchi chose a ‘realistic’ portrayal of the festive season. For most mums – and it is still mainly mums – it’s possibly the busiest and most stressful time of year. 

At the time of writing, ASA has received more than 160 complaints regarding this ad on the grounds of sexism. From women’s point of view, it portrays an old-fashioned family dynamic where domestic responsibility falls exclusively on mothers, while men feel that the fathers’ role is ignored or belittled. Notably, there are also plenty of mums who like the ad and happily admit that it is indeed the way the preparations and celebrations happen in their household.

First things first. Asda should be commended for breaking with the tradition of idealized, otherworldly Christmas.  Much as I enjoy the John Lewis ads, it’s refreshing to see a new approach that seeks to appeal to portray and appeal to real people rather than selling dreams (not a million miles off from  Tesco Mobile's 'no nonsense' campaigns which I equally admire.)

That said I sympathize with those who find Asda’s ad offensive. The fact that this role assignment is still prevalent does not mean it is right, and as cultural influencers brands have responsibility to not promote values that our society wishes to move on from. The fact that sexism was rife in 1950s did not make these Mad Men era comms ok.

But if sexism is going to be addressed, it needs to be done indiscriminately. The vast majority of FMCG and grocery brands target mums, and there has not yet been uproar about ‘That's why mums go to Iceland’ or P&G’s ‘proud sponsor of mums.’ What’s more, ASDA is not the first retailer to focus their Christmas campaign on mums – remember the Littlewoods 2011 Christmas ad?
Unless the Asda ad leads to a wider debate about sexism in other brands, the case risks becoming a scapegoat. Perhaps they should have cut the ‘what’s for tea love’ line after all. 


  1. Nice post, particularly the grocery focus ;)

    I wonder who it is that's complaining about the Ad, the mums themselves or feminists?

  2. According to Mumsnet most mums are complaining, so it's not as clear cut as consumers vs feminists!