By on August 23, 2019

Image: Volkswagen 2017 e-Golf VW

It’s become something of a fascination for this writer: scrutinizing the latest car commercial to earn the wrath of Britain’s all-seeing Advertising Standards Authority — an ominous and monolithic-sounding name if there ever was one.

One assumes there’s a moisture-stained, Brutalist-style concrete structure dedicated to preserving the sensibilities of UK viewing audiences somewhere in the greater London area. Bureaucrats and other pencil-pushers file in after abandoning their Austin Allegras and Morris Marinas in a rain-soaked parking lot, umbrellas in hand.

Having said that, let’s move on to the latest car company to run afoul of the UK ad cops: Volkswagen.

A new ad for VW’s e-Golf did not meet the ASA’s new standards on sexism, which makes one wonder how such an agency would have responded to those racy MG and Triumph ads from the 1970s.

VW raised ASA’s eyebrows not for having a full-figured woman in a racy negligee sprawled across the hood of a TR7 that someone somehow managed to jam into a bedroom, but by showing a woman “engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role,” the authority stated. Specifically, sitting on a park bench next to a stroller, coffee in hand. The ad is now banned.

While this might sound like an unnecessary freakout over something completely innocuous, a quick peek at the ad (click to expand) shows Volkswagen really shot itself in the foot:

“When we learn to adapt, we can do anything,” the ad states, showing people engaged in thrilling pursuits like floating around in space and performing a record long jump while wearing a prosthetic leg. Men floating in space and jumping. Had VW simply shown men and woman doing wild and incredible things, then cut to the lady in the bench, all might have been forgiven. I say “might,” as we’re dealing with the government here.

While VW protested, claiming its ad showed people of both genders “taking part in challenging situations,” the ASA wasn’t having it.

“We acknowledged that becoming a parent was a life-changing experience that required significant adaptation, but taking care of children was a role that was stereotypically associated with women,” the ASA stated.

In June, the ASA updated its standards to reflect the concerns of activist groups concerned with sexism. The new rules ban “gender stereotypes which are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offense.”

Before you unleash howls of vitriol over the ASA’s perceived gender bias, just know that it also banned a Philadelphia cream cheese ad for portraying men as useless clumps of organic matter who couldn’t properly care for a child if their life depended on it. Around here, at least, it seems the “smart woman, impossibly dumb guy” is the only acceptable ad template. While rigid, the ASA at least applies its standards across the board.

Which doesn’t shield the agency from criticism, of course. Not long ago, the ASA banned a Ford Mustang ad for suggesting the car could go fast, and that this might be fun for the driver. Frankly, we’re not sure how any auto company manages to air an ad in the UK showing their vehicles on the road, or even with the engine running. Viewers might find themselves stimulated.

[Source: DW, CNN] [Image: Volkswagen]

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26 Comments on “Britain’s Ad Police Strike Again...”


  • avatar
    TheDumbGuy-formerly JoeBrick

    “Let the state disintegrate.”- a slogan from the revolutionary 1960s.
    (Maybe from before that.)

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      It would help the readership here to know the ASA in the UK isn’t government.

      It’s an advertising industry association formed to police itself.

      But why would anyone here in the fantastic TTAC journalistic team bother to check that out?

      • 0 avatar
        TheDumbGuy-formerly JoeBrick

        And they can axe ads before they even air ? Hmmmm…My mistake- I thought it was the government doing it.
        BTW, don’t rag on the TTAC staff. No one is perfect. Maybe their source didn’t mention that fact.

        • 0 avatar
          TheDumbGuy-formerly JoeBrick

          P.S.- I did check the source material. In the first source, it mentioned that the actions were by “The authorities”. The second source, CNN made no mention of what type of entity the ASA was. I therefore rule that TTAC is not guilty ! Another victory for Justice over the fog of false accusations and vague innuendo.

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        The ASA does the job of the government to prevent the government from stepping in and doing things their way.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    “VW raised ASA’s eyebrows not for having a full-figured woman in a racy negligee sprawled across the hood of a TR7 that someone somehow managed to jam into a bedroom, but by showing a woman “engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role,” the authority stated. Specifically, sitting on a park bench next to a stroller, coffee in hand. The ad is now banned.”

    What a truly awful thing. No wonder it was banned. Just kidding. So how much did VW get fined by these regulators? This is a case of too much Government and the overreach of Governmental agencies.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      This makes so much sense now. That Tide commercial where the man is so concerned about getting the grass stains out of his princess’s hero dress (hence why he uses tide…) must have come from Britain.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    The UK, where only a man can endorse a brand of feminine hygiene products! I totally think they have nothing to fear from authoritarian leftist evil there. There’s no reason to be concerned. Common sense will win out. Totally!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, the UK went from an absolute monarchy to a dictatorship of Commons, and that has been hijacked by a dictatorship of petty bureaucrats. It may be time to give absolute monarchy another go.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I give this site maybe 6 more months.

  • avatar
    Fred

    My big criticism of car ads is the small print. It’s not up there long enough for anyone to read, the print is small and in a color that’s not easy to read. The same goes for lawyers, drugs and any other ads that show small print.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      What? Why? Who cares what the fine print on TV says?? First, it’s advertising, and advertisement is a synonym for lie, so you shouldn’t be relying on anything the ad says anyway without further research.
      If you really want to know, google the ad, the fine print probably exists, in not so fine print on the internet.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        If the small print is unreadable, then why have it? Clearly, it’s there to address liability issues. If the liability issues are important enough to display, it should be important enough to be readable.

        Otherwise, just don’t display it.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    And with this, VW has far more eyeballs on their company with sympathetic views toward them than any ad could ever produce.
    A success all around.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    I’m confused. Is the ASA saying that no advertiser can ever show a woman performing a caregiver role even when she is not actually delivering care? The point of the scene had nothing to do with her doing that anyway, as she was reading a book and did not notice the silent car gliding past. Crikey!

    These people are loony.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Glade to live in the USA. Shouldn’t they just be concerned about misleading ads? I guessing they were OK with VW’s Clean Diesels!

  • avatar

    Is this not the nation that once ruled over 3/5 of the world’s landmass?

  • avatar
    Roader

    Government run amok. What would all the people working for the Advertising Standards Authority do if they had to actually work in productive jobs?

  • avatar
    downunder

    You think that’s bad! Once upon a time, Australia made muscle cars, and these things went fast, handled and did other normal, car-like actions. The advertising followed in the same footsteps. Then the “Pedestrian Council of Australia” decided that these advertisements were encouraging bad driving and therefore should not be shown to the general public via the media of tv. So we had the ridiculous ads showing utes with a 5.8/6.3 l v8’s crawling around the outback, describing what they could do. The Pedestrian Council of Australia is headed by one Harold Scruby, total membership, 1, Harold Scruby. This one-man band managed to stifle a whole advertising genre, from which we haven’t recovered from yet. So that is the power of the minority in a democratic society, can’t upset the snowflakes, the may throw a temper tantrum and be permantely upset, and we can’t have that!

  • avatar

    Brits have sick sense of humor. ASA thinks that it is funny. As Pesci (he is not Brit) would say: “You think it is funny?”

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    but by showing a woman “engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role,”

    What planet do these people live on? Of course women are care givers you imbeciles. In the US 91% of nurses are women, only 9% are men. These women become nurses by choice. That’s what liberty does, it gives you the choice to pursue your interests.

    In the US 87% of primary education teachers are women. Again they do it by choice, because it aligns with their interests and their strengths.

    Women = care givers, strong interest in human interaction, compassionate. Men = better physical abilities, excel at problem solving, good at management because of their relative emotional detachment.

    All of this is natural law and is plainly obvious to whomever doesn’t have an agenda.

    Gah, our world is run by idiots.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Times have changed remember the Dodge boy ads from the late 60’s and early 70’s with the shapely women wearing hot pants, boots, and white cowboy hats and Southwest Airlines during that time advertised flight attendants in hot pants. This VW ad is so mild in comparison. This ad did accomplish its purpose in that it got VW attention.


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