8 November 2012 - 7:02am | posted by | 14 comments

The Drum asks creatives: Is that Christmas Asda campaign really sexist?

This year's Christmas campaign for supermarket chain Asda has come under fire due to claims of sexism as it represents a mother attempting to prepare the family for Christmas time. But is this really an old fashioned view of how Christmas used to be, and does it depict an old style view of the role of a mother? The Drum asked a number of creatives for their opinion on the matter.

Creative Review: 

Asda Christmas ad 2012

Sarah Druce, creative director at MARS London.

Sarah Druce, creative director at MARS London.

This ad has something of a romcom feel about it. If it had been made for any other retailer then maybe it would be more questionable, but taking into consideration that Asda’s main demographic are families, and more particularly mums, this ad actually feels like the right fit. It simply portrays the reality of Christmas for its target audience. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the ad is actually really quite refreshing and is a far cry from past Asda ads of hands-on-back-pockets. The retailer has tried to create something different, something honest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to win any awards, but at least it’s true to people’s lives.

Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO & founder of Savvy Marketing

Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO & founder of Savvy Marketing

Retailer Christmas TV ads should be about the romance and the magic of the season, and the fantastic products you can buy that will make your friends and family happy. With that in mind, you have to question whether the Asda ad will make depressing viewing for many– is that all mums have to look forward to? Where is the happy ending? It strikes me as a great example of “insight” perhaps being used too literally, and applied in an inappropriate way to a brand.

Life is tough right now for lots of families in the UK, which means many families are sharing more of the domestic chores and not just at Christmas. After all aren't we all in this together? For a brand like ASDA, who have always prided themselves on really knowing their shoppers, it seems that on this occasion they have missed the mark.

Jason Andrews, executive creative director of RAPP

Jason Andrews, executive creative director of RAPP

Christmas has always been sexist. That bloke with the big white beard and red suit always gets all the credit. Asda have clearly decided to redress the balance. Dad's role is now equivalent to that played by a mushy brussels sprout. Whilst mum gets to dazzle like a honey-glazed ham. Turkey anyone?

 Matt Pye, managing director of Cheil UK

 Matt Pye, managing director of Cheil UK

Bravo Asda. Housewives of Britain will rejoice in your celebration of the human truth that behind every great Christmas is a great Mum. Us blokes can delude ourselves that we contribute by writing a few Christmas cards, hanging a few glitter balls on a tree, (badly) wrapping a few presents bought hastily 2 days prior to the big day, and trying to stay sober-ish til the Queens speech at least. But let’s be honest this Asda spot is the reality. Well it is for me… and pretty much every bloke I know (apart from a couple of London based blokes who like to cook and enjoy shopping at Westfield on a Saturday verses an afternoon of footy). God bless my wife.

Gail Parminter, creative director, Madwomen

Gail Parminter, creative director, Madwomen

The Asda ad is astonishingly brazen in its bolstering of gender stereotypes. It idealises 'mum' as having to do it all yet loving every sad minute of it.

It's unimaginative. They've taken an insight, that women have to do it all at Christmas, but all they've done is literally show a woman 'doing it all'. 

That's not a creative idea. Imagine if we did that for beer ads: Insight: Men drink beer in pubs and talk about football, Idea: show men sitting in a pub talking about football. 

Why, when it comes to advertising to women do creatives stop being creative?

It patronizes women, demeans men and subordinates the magic of Christmas to the shopping slog that goes behind it.

"Xmas doesn't happen by magic" -  true but it de-mystfies the experience, reminding us all of what a slog it all is, in its bid to make mum hero, with Asda as mum/santas little helper. But at Christmas we want to revel in the magic , not be reminded of the dull reality behind it. Thanks Asda!

 Whilst the ad praises mum, Asda is clearly quite happy to rely on and reinforce the traditional stereotypes of woman's role in life - presented here as being the sole one in charge and doing all the work at Christmas. There is of course truth in this. After all where would Asda be without not simply the women who shop there but more especially the ones who happily serve on their checkouts, no doubt wearing reindeer headbands...again. You might expect Madwomen to react to the stereotyping of women as homemakers but in fact although it is partronizing towards women, it is even more demeaning towards men, suggesting that they have no role in the process.

Not bad but boring compared to seasonal ads of Christmas Past that were often more entertaining than the programmes / repeats they interrupted on the TV.

Asda say the insight researched well - but it would have done - mums would recognise the situation. but that doesn't mean they actually want to see that exact thing reflected back to them in the ad. It's an exaggeration that's showing a huge negative - and it is just as negative for dads - as if they have no interest in Christmas and are lazy.

Also, having a female CD (Kate Stanners) doesn't mean anything - it's not about the sex of the creative, it's about the lens they use when creating and approving ads. And in ad agencies, that lens is male.

Jeremy Garner, executive creative director for Weapon7

Jeremy Garner, executive creative director for Weapon7

Is the ASDA Christmas ad sexist? Well, I think it's important to firstly think about its context. The campaign is in-line with ASDA’s ongoing ‘ASDA Mums’ positioning and reflects the brand’s core target audience - Mums. ASDA is simply being honest about who they are trying to target, and while the father figure is cast in a supporting role he is not patronised - such as by showing him not helping at all. The ad is very self-selective and quite polarising, and that isn't a bad thing."

Darren Navier, creative director of Bloom

Darren Navier, creative director of Bloom

The simple truth is that this creative points squarely at Asda’s core heartland of working class families that really do still have a matriarchal figurehead keeping things going (and more than this - actually gets satisfaction from this role) and never more so than during Christmas. Calling this ad sexist is nothing so much as an act of misplaced inverse snobbery wrapped up in some sort of socially aware outburst.

Emma Marsland, managing partner, WCRS

Emma Marsland, managing partner, WCRS

I think the Asda Christmas ad is realistic rather than sexist. That's EXACTLY what most women/mums will be doing at Christmas, half enjoying it, half resenting that they seem to be the only ones doing anything. I applaud the fact they didn't generalise and ham up the father figure. Nicely done Asda, all the outraged twitterers should just get on with planning their perfect PC Christmas.

Jules Ridely, new business director, Cheil UK

Jules Ridely, new business director, Cheil UK

The Asda Christmas ad insults everyone who isn’t a stereotypical family. Once again it presents the classic 1950’s view of the nurturing stay at home mum as being the model mum – but what about us working mums? And is it really acceptable to suggest that men are so useless they can’t do anything domestic related? It’s bad enough that she’s hovering with the baby, and wrapping the presents in rubbish paper, but then the pathetic excuse for a husband asks ‘what’s for tea love’. This ad should end with a marriage guidance counsellor simply stating ‘leave him’.

Kate Frearson, Madomen Planning Director

Kate Frearson, Madomen Planning Director

Whilst the ad praises mum, Asda is clearly quite happy to rely on and reinforce the traditional stereotypes of woman's role in life - presented here as being the sole one in charge and doing all the work at Christmas. There is of course truth in this. After all where would Asda be without not simply the women who shop there but more especially the ones who happily serve on their checkouts, no doubt wearing reindeer headbands...again.

Not bad but boring compared to seasonal ads of Christmas Past that were often more entertaining than the programmes / repeats they interrupted on the TV.

Jamie Matthews, CEO, INITIALS Marketing

Jamie Matthews, CEO, INITIALS Marketing

With the exception of the last scene and line, our view is that it’s pretty spot on. The majority of Asda's shopper base is mums, so the ad does a pretty good job of hero-ing mum in a set of scenes that are both realistic and to which most families can relate to. We expected the ad to end on a scene with the family doing something for mum to thank her…but no…they're all sat in front of the telly, and dad pipes up with 'what's for tea love'! So this is perhaps where it gets into warm water slightly on the sexism front. But hey, it's Christmas and no doubt dad would have got a good slap if they had filmed the next scene…Move on!

Comments

8 Nov 2012 - 09:06
humdrum's picture

Interesting to compare the women's and men's comments here

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8 Nov 2012 - 09:21
christian_jones's picture

Christmas is a nightmare, the stresses it places on families is ridiculous. The more people I talk to about Christmas, the more sighing, huffing and puffing I hear, followed by the words, 'not again'. Maybe it's just me being a grouchy, realistic, northern bloke!

The last thing we need are patronising adverts... oops, too late Asda have done it again, another crappy Christmas advert. Yes it's sexist and full of stereotypes but as many have mentioned, it's hitting the demographic; it's just not a reflection of reality - I mean have you been in an Asda store lately? More importantly, whose house is ever that tidy on a Christmas day?!

I suppose we should be grateful they're not blasting out Slade's infamous Christmas ballad.

But... if any knows where I can get those round, chocolate, rum truffles from, it would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance. Chris

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8 Nov 2012 - 10:14
Emma Coates's picture

There are key similarities between the strategy of the Asda advert and the marketing of P&G - Proud sponsors of Mum's. I don't recall negative press about P&G during the Olympics - who says that Mum's do all the washing. Where is the Dad cleaning the son's football kit? Iceland have had a slogan of 'Mum's shop at Iceland' for years' - who is to say that only the female shops there? I am not connected to Asda in any way and to be honest I don't shop there as I find the experience terrible, their marketing is usually shoddy but lets not get caught up in the rather boring sexism row and try to embrace the Christmas spirit (even if it is only early November!).

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8 Nov 2012 - 10:19
Media Lady's picture

i agree with humdrum. female advertising execs think this ad is sexist but will the general hoi polloi of the UK? working in advertising myself i think its a harsh view on the reality of christmas and when you're targeting the female shopper - do you really want to be the brand to celebrate how crappy the christmas prep can be?! i am with gail parminter. men in a pub, drinking beer.

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8 Nov 2012 - 10:30
russm34721's picture

I think the agency must have watched too many episodes of Mad men. Stereotypical and lazy work. Yes, it may be bang on with the demographics, but there are opportunities missed here.

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8 Nov 2012 - 10:37
Tim Downs's picture

I'm with Darren Navier here. Not a single person commenting on here is an 'Asda Mum'. What I see is people applying the ad to their lives. Go and talk to the core audience and see what they make of it, then comeback.

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8 Nov 2012 - 10:39
Stew@BlueChip's picture

According to my own wife this ad totally hits the spot in terms of sympathising with what the run up to Christmas actually feels like for busy mums. We can all have lofty arguments about whether it's right that society puts mums in this position, but it's the truth. It's bloody hard work, it's stressful and it's not much fun. A lot of mums out there are probably dreading it. To me this ad clearly says (in a charming way) ASDA feels your pain mums and we salute you. At a time when Tesco seems to be having trouble emotionally connecting with customers it's not a bad Christmas message from the supermarket that most mums will automatically know is the cheapest option. It even manages to showcase the full range of goods mums can rely on ASDA to provide.

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8 Nov 2012 - 11:25
Thomas Atcheson's picture

Haven't we been here before with 'mum' replacing Santa in last year's Littlewoods ad?

For me the creative element seems to have lost the focus of what the ad was trying to communicate and to whom.

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8 Nov 2012 - 11:38
Word Service's picture

Speaking as a creative, it may be sexist and unimaginative; but speaking as a mum (who shops at Adsa a lot of the time) it really struck a chord. Like it or lump it, mums DO do most of the work when it comes to Christmas. We like creating a happy family Christmas - so shoot us. It's probably the one time of year when my feminist principles go out of the window and I'm happy to adopt a stereotypical homemaker role. Asda have focused very firmly on its key target demographic for Christmas because they know that's where their profits will come from - not from a nice shiny D&AD or Cream award.

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8 Nov 2012 - 13:28
EvolutionDezine

I'd say it is old fashioned almost idyllic Xmas rather than sexist. It may reflect the lives of their core consumer and in that case married life is sexist. However the last time I went to an ASDA it was full of obese distended family groups being dragged by Mum pushing over filled trolleys to block the cake isle, with even rougher looking dogs tied up outside.

Which branch does TV Xmas family shop at?

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8 Nov 2012 - 14:48
georgeshepherd's picture

The Drum asks creatives: Is that Christmas Asda campaign really weak and instantly forgettable?

'Er...yes"

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8 Nov 2012 - 16:28
andy713980's picture

I shop at Asda, thought I'd get that out of the way first. Since being separated from the mother of my daughter, my daughter has spent many Christmases with me, which I worked hard at to make special. Now I have a new partner and a step daughter. Who does all of the food shopping (all of the time)? Me. Who does all of the Christmas cooking and most of the gift buying? Me. I am sure that in many instances, mum is behind a great Christmas. But to state "Behind EVERY great Christmas, there's mum' is not only factually incorrect, it's insulting to single-dad families, gay male couples with children, families who may have lost a mother, and also families where the father is actually the one who does most of the work at Christmas! I am not one to be over sensitive about 'PC' issues as such, but this ad really really wound me up!

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8 Nov 2012 - 16:49
RhondasSongs

I've been that woman! They should have balanced it out a little bit with the husband assembling the 'easy to assemble toys' and then guiding her to that chair with a glass of wine before dragging his dad in the kitchen to do the washing up!

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12 Nov 2012 - 16:14
georgeshepherd's picture

Now Morrisons have stolen the exact same insight & strategy !!

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