The Advertising Standards Authority confirmed to Marketing Week it has now received 160 complaints about the ad, which depicts a mother preparing for Christmas, since it launched on Sunday (4 November) – up from 24 on Tuesday (6 November).

The volume of complaints is likely to prompt the watchdog to consider a formal investigation of the advert sooner than in most normal cases. An investigation could result in the ad being banned ahead of the supermarket’s lucrative Christmas shopping period.

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.

She adds: “Most users are irritated by what they see as a patronising portrayal of an outdated version of family life and that the days when men sit around demanding their tea are long gone. That said, there are some who admit that the ad fairly accurately reflects the division of labour in their households over Christmas but even they wouldn’t put up with the ‘What’s for tea, love’ line without all hell being let loose.”

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.

When it first emerged that viewers had complained about the Saatchi & Saatchi-created ad earlier this week, an Asda spokeswoman told Marketing Week that 80 per cent of its shoppers are mums and in research its customers were “overwhelmingly positive” about the ad. In less than three hours after launching the ad Asda claims its Facebook page received 22,000 likes.

In response to the recent spike in complaints about the ad, an Asda spokesman says: “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.”