ASA Ruling on Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
27 February 2013
Number of complaints:
Two versions of a TV ad for Morrisons supermarket:
a. The first ad began with a woman waking in bed to the sound of Christmas music on the radio. The voice-over said, "And so it begins ..." Next the ad showed a number of festive scenes including Christmas lights on the exterior of a house and a Christmas show on a TV screen. The voice-over continued, "It's everywhere, there's so much to do - what with the decorations ... and the tree." The ad showed a man crawling below a Christmas tree to switch on the tree lights, the couple then admired the tree for an instant before all of the tree's needles fell to the floor. The woman was then shown working through a large pile of Christmas cards, helping her son with his school play costume and then attending the play. The voice-over continued, "It's enough to make you an emotional wreck." The scene cut to the same woman, in a kitchen, looking exhausted and staring at an uncooked turkey. The room transformed into a boxing ring before the woman and the turkey began circling each other as if to spar. The voice-over began with a sigh and said, "And before you know it, it's here. Ah, the familiar wrestle - woman on bird."
In the next scene the woman answered her front door to a long queue of people outside the house. "And then they come - the helpers. They don't know where anything is!" Next the woman was shown sitting on a huge mound of Brussels sprouts, crossing them with a short paring knife. "Whose idea was it to put a cross in these?" Next the woman was in front of a stove, frantically stirring and attending a vast assortment of pots and pans: "There's never enough rings... ". The woman was then at a table and, shown as if she had six arms, completing various kitchen tasks: "... never enough hands ... ". The voice-over continued, "... never enough time" while dozens of novelty egg timers on a dining table started to ring.
Finally the woman lifted a golden, roasted turkey on a serving plate and carried it to her family sitting around the table. The man rose and began carving the bird; the table bustled as food in bowls and plates were passed around the guests. The voice-over ended, "Its hard work ... but its Christmas ... and I wouldn't have it any other way" as the woman looked over the scene and broke into a smile.
b. The second ad was a shortened version of (a), with some scenes removed.
Twenty six viewers objected that the ads were offensive and sexist, because they believed they reinforced outdated stereotypes of men and women in the home.
Wm Morrisons Supermarkets plc (Morrisons) said the ad campaign was conceived after the socially representative focus groups they had commissioned provided a strong message that many working mums were still bearing the brunt of Christmas preparations. In light of this Morrisons decided to portray these real-life experiences in a gentle, thought-provoking, but light-hearted manner. They hoped the campaign might encourage empathy with the main character and provoke further discussion. They were surprised that a small proportion of viewers felt that the ad reinforced outdated stereotypes of men and women in the home. Morrisons intended the ad as a subtle and sensitive critique, which would leave viewers to decide for themselves. They believed the ad did not encourage discriminatory behaviour or treatment.
Clearcast supported the advertiser's response and did not believe that the ad was likely to be considered sexist or offensive.
The ASA noted that Morrisons had first conducted its own market research on the subject before developing the ad's theme. We noted the research indicated that, for many families, mothers were still the ones who carried out most of the Christmas preparations. Although the ad portrayed the main character undertaking all of the preparations we considered that the message of the ad was that this was a huge task and that viewers were encouraged to think about the enormity of the task that many mums would be undertaking at this time of the year.
We acknowledged that some people would find the ad's portrayal of a mother being solely responsible for the preparations to be distasteful. However, we considered the ad did not imply that it reflected every family's experience. We also considered that the ad was not likely to be seen as condoning or encouraging harmful discriminatory behaviour, or reinforcing negative stereotypes of men or women in general, and, for those reasons, considered it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ads under BCAP rules 4.1 and 4.8 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.