A TV ad for Gorilla Glue Europe Ltd, seen on 4 April 2023, featured a father playing a ball game with his two sons in the living room of their family home. The father had the younger child on his back in a piggy-back and the older child was seen trying to tackle him to take the ball away. That resulted in him and the children falling over, and knocking various household items off a table, including a candlestick and a toy plane. A gorilla then appeared, startling the family, before the father was seen using super glue to fix the broken items. The gorilla walked off and the father was then rugby-tackled onto the sofa by the children. 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, who 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, challenged whether the ad breached the Code.
Gorilla Glue said that the ad was light-hearted in tone and intended to show how their glue product offered a solution to common household problems. They said this was evident in how a father and his children were portrayed boisterously playing together and breaking several objects, which required super glue to fix. They said that the phrase “mum stays none the wiser” was included because accidentally breaking an item, especially one with either monetary or sentimental value, could evoke a negative emotive response. They said that the wider sentiment that evoked an emotive response was not gender specific and that it did not perpetuate a stereotype that mothers were more responsible, serious, or concerned about tidiness. They also said that the ad made no reference to any mess being cleaned up, further indicating that there was no evidence to suggest that the mother was more concerned about tidiness than the father.
They said that the ad did not imply that fathers were more fun or playful than mothers and that the genders of the parents were interchangeable. They said the ad simply depicted a real-world example of a game between a parent and their children, with the gender of that parent being inconsequential.
Clearcast considered that the ad did not perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. They said that the mother was not featured at all, meaning viewers did not see what her response to the broken objects may have been. Whilst the audio suggested the mother may have been upset, they considered that could have been for numerous reasons. For example, the broken items may have been of sentimental value to her. They believed there was nothing in the ad to suggest that she was concerned about tidiness, and, as she was not present in the ad, there was no evidence that she was not playful with her children. They also stated that the father was the parent who tidied and fixed the objects, which suggested he was responsible and tidy.
Clearcast additionally said that the playful nature of the father was not presented as being unique or specific to one gender. They considered that, in other media, mothers were commonly shown being playful with their children and that, as the gender of each parent was not integral to the ad, the genders could have been reversed without the ad’s content or messaging changing.
The BCAP Code stated “Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. The joint CAP and BCAP guidance said that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles, but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender or were never carried out or displayed by another gender. The guidance provided examples which were likely to be unacceptable, which included "an ad that depicts 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 “an ad that depicts 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.”
The complainant was concerned that the ad suggested that fathers were fun and playful whilst mothers were responsible, serious and concerned about tidiness. We acknowledged that performing domestic chores, such as tidying, was stereotypically seen as the responsibility of women. We also considered that doing DIY and fixing items was stereotypically seen as the responsibility of men. Ads may feature or reference people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles but care should be taken to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender.
Although the ad featured a gorilla walking into a home, which was comedic and surreal, we considered that most elements of the ad were recognisable and realistic, such as the home itself, the typical family dynamic and a household object being broken by a family member.
We acknowledged that the father was portrayed in a light-hearted and boisterous manner, playing sports indoors with his children. However, he was also presented as the parent looking after his children in a house which was, and remained, clean and tidy. Although the father and sons accidentally broke an object in the house, the father took care to repair the object. We acknowledged that using Superglue, a DIY product, to repair items, might be seen as a different type of task or responsibility to keeping the house clean and tidy. However, we considered the ad still depicted the father as capable of being responsible as well as fun and playful. The mother did not appear in the ad, but we 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 or men.
We considered that the phrases “Uh-oh, someone’s in trouble” and “mum stays none the wiser”, spoken by the voiceover (rather than a family member), suggested that the mother would be unhappy if she found out that a household object had been broken. However, we did not consider the ad implied that was because keeping the house tidy was her sole responsibility or that of mothers in general. Although the ad made clear that fixing a household item would avoid the father and sons being “in trouble” with the mother, we did not consider 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 whilst mothers were concerned with tidiness as they were responsible for keeping a house tidy, we concluded that the ad did not perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 4.14 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.