Asda Christmas ad furore is misplaced

There’s quite a furore over Asda’s Christmas advertising this year with complaints that it’s sexist. It may be but the supermarket is not the only culprit of this crime and is getting more than its fair share of criticism.


Asda’s ad depicts a mum working hard to get all the aspects of Christmas right so that the family enjoy the festive season. It has attracted a few dozen complaints to the ASA and it may be formally investigated.

Asda makes a generalisation about family life that doesn’t ring true for many households in the UK. There are a lot of dads out there that do the bulk of the work at Christmas and year round and many other households that split the chores, but to generalise, mums do do most of the work at Christmas.

The ad creative is based on some thorough research that Asda conducts every month with more than 4,000 British mums. It polls and surveys its customer base – 80 per cent of which are mums – and has a pretty good understanding of what makes them tick. It has boiled this down into a simple plot which reflects a truth about Christmas, about mums and about families.

Mums and targeting mums have been at the core of Asda’s marketing for as long as I can remember. It speaks a truth to the majority of its customers and I think most people, even if the ad doesn’t depict their own experience, can relate to it.

Before I get accused of being anti-feminist let me be clear: sexism is a bad thing. It’s bad for women and it’s bad for society. It should be stamped out in the work place, the gender gap in salary should be erased and there should be more women on boards of big business but Asda’s Christmas ad alone is not to blame.

Asda isn’t saying all women should stay at home and handle all the domestic drudgeries and live a life where their only satisfaction is derived from pleasing husbands and children while men go out to work and do manly things, it is merely holding a mirror up to society’s inherent sexism.

It may not be a particularly clever or progressive ad but lets not demonise Asda here. It’s no more guilty of this than other supermarkets or advertisers.

Watch the full ad here and make up your mind.

Iceland has long used “That’s why mums go to Iceland”, P&G’s much lauded 2012 Olympic campaign slogan was “Proud sponsor of Mums” and Boots’ entire “Here come the Girls” ad strategy in recent years has been built around the headline idea that women prepared more for things than men.

Boots’ 2011 Mission Impossible style Christmas ad showed many of the same scenes as Asda’s ad this year. Women buy and choose the presents, wrap them, sort out the Christmas lights and send all the cards all in one big military style operation. Its winter ads show women battling on with all aspects of life while men succumb to “man flu”.

Some brands are more offensive in their treatment of the stereotypes than others but while many do lean on gender stereotypes – far from decrying women and banishing them to domestic roles – they are celebrating women’s role, their resourcefulness and capability.

These advertisers aren’t helping to cast off stereotypes but they should not be vilified for reflecting truisms. There is a role for advertising to play in breaking these social norms and encouraging more equality in society but if we don’t like the truth it depicts, we have to change society not just bitch about a single Christmas ad campaign.



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