A television ad for a scrubbing device has been banned for suggesting cleaning the home is a responsibility uniquely associated with women.
The three-minute television ad for the JML Hurricane Spin Scrubber, seen in March, depicted several women using the cleaning tool in the bathroom, kitchen and elsewhere in the home.
In the ad, four women describe their experiences with the tool, saying: “I have a very busy household. People are in and out of my shower all the time”, “I love using the extension pole to get the rings out of the bathtub”, and “I’ve given this to my mother as a gift, and it’s changed the way she cleans. I don’t have to worry about her slipping and falling”.
We don’t know about you, but we’re getting a serious throwback to the 90s, when an 11-year-old Meghan Markle campaigned against a sexist TV advert. The future Hollywood star and royal wrote a letter to Proctor & Gamble to protest their ad for Ivory dishwasher soap that claimed “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans”.
Three decades on, it seems little has changed.
In the banned ad for the Hurricane Spin Scrubber, one woman said she had previously been “embarrassed” to have people over to her house because of limescale deposits but no longer worried after using the product.
“I love having people over to come inspect my kitchen and my bathrooms,” she said, before a male voiceover concluded: “To get your hands on the Hurricane Spin Scrubber and a sparkling clean home call now…”.
A viewer complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) on the grounds the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting women in a role that was stereotypically female and implying only women cleaned or were interested in cleaning products.
John Mills Ltd, trading as JML, said the ad had been broadcast since 2017, focused on the functionality of the product and featured two shots of men.
The firm said the ad did not suggest cleaning was only associated with women or that a man was unable to undertake any of the featured tasks.
Advertising clearance agency Clearcast said the ad did not at any point suggest that cleaning was associated with women only.
However, upholding the complaint, the ASA noted that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles, such as showing women cleaning, but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender.
The ASA said the four women’s testimonials “contained a number of explicit references to cleaning up after other people and implied feelings of shame at other people seeing an unclean home”. There was no implication that the men briefly featured in the ad would share such responsibilities or feelings.
“We considered the cumulative effect of the four testimonials, the prominence of people cleaning who were easily identifiable as women, and the lack of easily identifiable men, perpetuated the stereotype that it was a woman’s responsibility to take pride in the appearance and cleanliness of their home, and to clean up after other people,” said the ASA. “It also perpetuated the idea that women should be judged on the cleanliness of their home.”
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: “We told JML to ensure their advertising did not present gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm, including by suggesting that cleaning the home was a responsibility uniquely associated with women.”