A TV ad for Rightmove, seen in July 2020, featured a man in his empty living room sitting down to read a truck magazine. When he lowered the magazine, four little girls were playing noisily in the living room. One said, “Dad …” and two of them were playing recorders. The man was then shown on the sofa with his female partner and four daughters who were putting face paint on him and styling his hair. He was then shown trying to read in the bathroom. A fire alarm went off and a girl holding a mixing bowl opened the door and said “Dad, something really bad has happened!”. The man was then shown sitting in the back garden with his magazine. He looked up to see a dog with a pink bow in its hair whining and holding a lead in its mouth, and there was a sound of thunder and rain.
On-screen text stated “When life moves, make your rightmove”. The man was shown looking at Rightmove listings on his phone. The next scene showed the exterior of a larger house, followed by the woman unpacking and the girls playing inside. The man was shown going into a shed at the bottom of the garden and sitting down to read his magazine as his little girls’ faces appeared at the shed window.
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the ad depicted women and girls as demanding and annoying and men as not taking responsibility for childcare, challenged whether it perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes.
Rightmove Group Ltd said that the ad was first shown in December 2018 and had been regularly shown since. They said the ad was made to bring to life one of the most common reasons for moving home, the need for more space. The story centred around the interaction of the dad and kids – the mother, although present, was only ever on the periphery of the activity. They were not contrasting gender roles for childcare of decision-making, but were dramatizing the need for parents, of either gender, to have a break in the day for themselves. That was not always possible in a small house, especially with a large and energetic family. They said the ad showed a loving home where the dad loved the interaction with his kids. As a family, they had outgrown their house and needed to move to another one that would give them more space. Rightmove did not believe that the ad perpetuated or relied upon harmful gender stereotypes.
Clearcast said that the ad provided an insight into a family wanting to move home in order to have more space. They did not consider that the father was shown attempting to avoid childcare and domestic duties.
The CAP and 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 Advertising Guidance (the 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.
The guidance stated that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles (e.g. a woman cleaning the house or a man doing DIY), or displaying gender stereotypical characteristics (e.g. a man being assertive or a woman being sensitive to others’ needs), but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender, the only options available to one gender, or never carried or displayed by another gender.
We considered the scenario presented in the ad. The main character was the only male in a family with a female partner and four daughters. The family dog was shown with a pink bow on its head, which viewers would likely take to indicate that it, too, was female. We therefore considered that the scene was specifically predicated on the idea of the one male being “outnumbered” by females in his household, rather than just annoying children of either gender. The father was shown trying to find somewhere to read a magazine about trucks, an interest stereotypically associated with men. His daughters were shown putting make up on him and doing his hair ? these were activities stereotypically associated with girls. In the end, the father was shown entering a shed at the bottom of the garden. Again, this played on a commonly-held stereotype about men wanting to escape to a shed, den or “man cave”.
While the ad could be characterised as a depiction of a parent trying to find some alone time in a busy household, the scenario was clearly conveyed in a way that was reliant on gender stereotypes. With that established, we considered whether the ad depicted gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm. We noted there was nothing in the ad to suggest that the main character was unable to cope with childcare or that he did not participate in family life. While he seemed tired and harassed, the daughters approached him to play with them and help with problems, and after dealing with the baking incident he was shown with flour on his face in the next scene, suggesting that he was generally an active father. While the female partner was shown unpacking at the end while the man went to the shed, we considered this was logical given that the ad was centred around the dad character and showed one of the benefits he would get from moving into a larger house, and did not suggest that he never participated in domestic duties. The female partner was a peripheral presence and was not shown as making any demands on the central character.
Furthermore, while the little girls were noisy and lively, and the father was called on to help with problems they had caused, we did not consider the ad gave the impression that they were particularly annoying or demanding on the basis of their gender, and a similar treatment could have been achieved with boys being loud or disruptive while taking part in activities stereotypically associated with males.
We considered that the overriding impression of the ad was of a family’s hectic life in a home that they were outgrowing and that the scenes in which the dad was shown relaxing were those exceptional times when he tried to take a few moments for himself, rather than a harmful depiction of a father who avoided childcare and domestic chores or of women and girls proving an annoyance specifically on the basis of their gender. While the presentation of the scenario undeniably drew on gender stereotypes, we did not consider that it did so in a way that was likely to cause harm.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence” (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.