The Advertising Standards Authority will now assess whether the spot, which features a mother preparing for Christmas and carries the strapline “Behind every great Christmas there’s mum”, is at odds with the CAP advertising code.

The volume of complaints just days after the ad’s first broadcast on Sunday (4 November) is likely to have prompted the ASA to launch the investigation more quickly than in usual cases, because it suggests it has caused “widespread offence”.

The adjudication process can often be lengthy but there is a possibility the ASA could opt to ban the ad from broadcast in the supermarket’s lucrative Christmas shopping period – a time when its competitors are marketing on TV prominently.

The ad has sparked considerable debate on Twitter, Facebook and web forums in the past week, with both men and women claiming the spot – which carries the strapline “Behind every great Christmas there’s mum” – could reinforce negative gender stereotypes.

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet, told Marketing Week the ad was the subject of more than 1,000 comments on its forums in less than 24 hours.

Meanwhile, campaign group Fathers 4 Justice is encouraging its supporters to stage a series of “occupy”-style protests at Asda supermarkets, starting with its flagship Wigan store, which is set to launch its “Christmas showcase” next week.

Asda did not respond to a request to comment on the ASA’s investigation but yesterday (8 November) issued this statement in response to the recent spike in complaints about the ad: “To any mums and dads who have been upset by our Christmas TV ad – we’d like to offer our sincere apologies. It wasn’t our intention to offend anyone. Our ad depicts what many of the 16 million mums who shop in Asda tell us they feel. It is intended to be light-hearted and fun and in the main that’s how it’s been received. We respect all hard-working parents and know just how tough it is managing a family – particularly at Christmas.”