A TV advert for Rightmove first screened in 2018 has been cleared of gender stereotyping.
A complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority concerned the ad which featured a man in his empty living room sitting down to read a truck magazine.
When he lowered the magazine, four little girls were playing noisily in the living room. One said, “Dad …” and two of them were playing recorders.
The man was then shown on the sofa while his daughters who were putting face paint on him and styling his hair; later he appeared harassed by a daughter when a fire alarm went off; and finally when he tried to relax in the back garden, a dog appeared holding a lead in its mouth.
On-screen text stated “When life moves, make your rightmove”. The man was shown looking at Rightmove listings on his phone.
The next scene showed the exterior of a larger house, followed by the woman unpacking and the girls playing inside. The man was shown going into a shed at the bottom of the garden and sitting down to read his magazine as his little girls’ faces appeared at the shed window.
The complainant to the ASA claimed the ad depicted women and girls as demanding and annoying, and men as not taking responsibility for childcare.
The complainant asked whether this “perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes” prompting an ASA probe.
Rightmove defended itself to the authority by saying the ad was made to bring to life one of the most common reasons for moving home, the need for more space.
The portal said there was no contrast of gender roles involved, but it instead was a dramatisation of the need for parents, of either gender, to have a break in the day for themselves.
That was not always possible in a small house, especially with a large and energetic family, and the portal said the ad showed a loving home where the dad loved the interaction with his kids. As a family, they had outgrown their house and needed to move to another one that would give them more space. Rightmove did not believe that the ad perpetuated or relied upon harmful gender stereotypes.
The ASA agreed with Rightmove and threw out the complaint.
However, the authority did say that Rightmove relied on gender stereotypes - just not harmful ones.
“While the ad could be characterised as a depiction of a parent trying to find some alone time in a busy household, the scenario was clearly conveyed in a way that was reliant on gender stereotypes” says the verdict of its investigation.
“With that established, we considered whether the ad depicted gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm. We noted there was nothing in the ad to suggest that the main character was unable to cope with childcare or that he did not participate in family life. While he seemed tired and harassed, the daughters approached him to play with them and help with problems, and after dealing with the baking incident he was shown with flour on his face in the next scene, suggesting that he was generally an active father.
“While the female partner was shown unpacking at the end while the man went to the shed, we considered this was logical given that the ad was centred around the dad character and showed one of the benefits he would get from moving into a larger house, and did not suggest that he never participated in domestic duties. The female partner was a peripheral presence and was not shown as making any demands on the central character.”
The verdict continues: “Furthermore, while the little girls were noisy and lively, and the father was called on to help with problems they had caused, we did not consider the ad gave the impression that they were particularly annoying or demanding on the basis of their gender, and a similar treatment could have been achieved with boys being loud or disruptive while taking part in activities stereotypically associated with males.
“We considered that the overriding impression of the ad was of a family’s hectic life in a home that they were outgrowing and that the scenes in which the dad was shown relaxing were those exceptional times when he tried to take a few moments for himself, rather than a harmful depiction of a father who avoided childcare and domestic chores or of women and girls proving an annoyance specifically on the basis of their gender.
“While the presentation of the scenario undeniably drew on gender stereotypes, we did not consider that it did so in a way that was likely to cause harm.”