In the second banned ad, from food company Mondelez UK for Philadelphia, a brand of cream cheese, two fathers become distracted in a restaurant and place their babies on a food conveyer belt, only noticing their mistake once the infants have been carried away. At that point, one says “Let’s not tell Mum.” The ASA said that, while it was clear the ad was meant jokingly, the two dads were depicted as “hapless and inattentive” to the extent that it perpetuated the stereotype that fathers are poor at childcare.

The rulings are the latest in a UK trend of holding advertisers to account for creating potentially damaging content. It first banned ads featuring “dangerously thin” models back in 2015, and in 2017 brought in rules that said adverts for kids shouldn’t push the idea of girls as ballerinas and boys as scientists and superheroes. The newest rules on stereotyping in adult ads came in part as a response to billboards created by Protein World in 2015, which asked “Are you beach-body ready?” alongside an image of a thin, bikini-clad model. They were removed from the London Underground after hundreds of complaints.

The global advertising industry itself is struggling both to adapt its internal practices to increasingly loud calls for gender equality, and to produce ads that avoid lazy stereotypes. In the UK—despite some backlash describing the ASA as the “morality police”—failure to do so is becoming more visible.

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