The Asda Christmas adverts have become a bit of a talking point. Some think they’re sexist, others think they’re not, and the rest are laughing at the Asda Granny reading 50 Shades of Grey in the corner.
Are women being done a disservice? We hear the arguments argues for and against.
Asda has come under fire for adhering to tired old stereotypes of mothers and fathers, and it’s true the ad doesn’t seem to give dads much credit. The father’s role in the ad is limited to that of the sofa oaf, placidly asking his wife what’s for tea. The wife, meanwhile, is shown cheerfully doing everything from washing up to shopping to wrapping presents.
The ‘hardworking mother’ has proven a popular theme after Morrisons launched a similar ad this week, which depicts a woman discussing the less-than-perfect aspects of Christmas.
Arguments surrounding such ads seem to centre on whether they’re factually correct or not – those whose personal experience suggests fathers do help out more say it’s sexist, while people who see mothers racing around shrug and say it’s true.
I suspect that in the main, mothers do shoulder the burden of the housework, although this is slowly changing. But whether or not the depiction is accurate isn’t really the issue. Instead, the role being depicted should be questioned. The equal ideal is that if both parties work full-time, both should do more or less equal amounts of housework. By making a hardworking mother the centre of its ad, Asda reinforces the idea that mothers should be doing all the domestic work. This doesn’t seem quite fair on mothers, and it doesn’t seem fair on fathers either – the advertising world seems convinced all dads are useless lumps. Unless someone’s not working professionally, which many mothers are nowadays, it seems a bit much to expect them to do all the domestic work too.
So while Asda is hardly going to bring down womankind, it might contribute to a slight backward pressure by reinforcing the idea that mums do housework and dads demand food. Which, when mothers invariably work professionally as well, probably isn’t doing them much of a favour. The aim, no doubt, is to foster a sense of ‘we’re all in this together, mums. We understand you.’ Retailers’ role after all is to sell, not to change women’s role in society via a Christmas ad. But they could be doing their bit.
With its stereotypical images of a harassed mum running around doing the shopping, cleaning the house, cooking the lunch and doing the washing up and it’s “Behind every great Christmas there’s mum” strapline, it was entirely predictable that Asda would face accusations of sexism for this year’s seasonal ad.
While many people will take umbrage at the life it depicts, that doesn’t stop it from being very close to reality for many British households. It is, after all, based on research carried out among respondents to Asda’s Mumdex, which shows that despite 80% of the respondents working , 70% of them do all of the cooking and cleaning and even more do the washing and ironing.
Carrying out research among those consumers was never going to offer an insight into the changing face of modern Britain, but what it has done is offer an insight into the lives of what Asda sees as its core shoppers – families and, more importantly, mums.
And targeting them with key messages, which is the sole purpose of its marketing and advertising, means having to generalise. A quick look at all advertising across the board shows that the clever, nuanced work doesn’t tend to come from the mainstream brands.
This campaign, just like many before it – Boots’ Here Comes the Girls, for example – reflect the lives of many ordinary families that shop at Asda. There will be plenty of women out there nodding knowingly along. Whether they are happy about doing all the work or not is another matter.
It is not Asda’s job to take the lead on tackling sexism – that would take a paradigm shift in the advertising world – but it is the job of its marketing to convince consumers that Asda is a supermarket of the ordinary people and to ensure that shoppers return again and again. What it isn’t doing is selling a snow-covered, romanticised version of Christmas, where everything just appears as if magically delivered by Santa – an approach that can leave many feeling inadequate.
Analysis: Which are the best Christmas adverts of 2012?
- 12Currently reading
Debate: Is the Asda Christmas advert really sexist?
8 Readers' comments