For many Christmas may well be the season of good will, but those sentiments don’t seem to apply to Asda at the moment.
The supermarket giant has inadvertently found itself at the centre of a so-called sexism row over the last week or so with the launch of its new Christmas advertisement. The ad which features a mum preparing her family for 25 December whilst her idle partner looks on or gets it wrong has split opinion. Asda’s loyal brand followers have rallied to its side and supported the advertisement, however, opponents of the latest advert have taken to the social media in disgust or formally complained to the Advertising Standards Agency claiming the advert is guilty of re-enforcing negative gender stereotypes. So what action is the supermarket likely to take to solve the problem?
Will Asda hit back at its critics and use the social media to nip the sexism row in the bud, or will it simply sit back and do nothing like LinkedIn did earlier this year during the hacking debacle?
Well is the advertisement sexist, and does it cause offence?
It’s difficult to say because it depends on your point of view. It’s certainly not according to Mumsnet which claimed the advert had been the subject of more than 1,000 favourable or supportive posts on its forums in less than 24 hours. Asda’s followers too, (80nt of who are mums according to the company) have been generally supportive. On the supermarket’s own Twitter and Facebook pages the response has been largely positive, attracting over 23,000 likes so far. However, the same can’t be said of Fathers4Justice. The pressure group is naturally annoyed with the advert’s negative and sexist portrayal of men and is encouraging its supporters to complain directly to the watchdog, the ASA: official complaints have now apparently risen to over 200. The campaign group is also preparing to stage sit-in protests at Asda stores in the coming weeks to raise the profile of their quest to get the ad off the air.
So what about Asda? Has there been any sort of reaction?
Well, the answer is no: Asda appears to be carrying on as if nothing has happened. Apparently the company has issued a statement apologising for any offence caused to mums and dads to any members of the press who are interested, but this isn’t available on its website. In social media terms all it seems to be doing is tweeting about its latest Christmas offers or posting Facebook pictures of Jedward cooking. So obviously the supermarket is not too worried.
But the question is should they be? Asda may not believe anything important has happened, but if left unchecked this could escalate into a major issue which has the potential to derail its Christmas marketing campaign at the most-lucrative time of the year. There have been sufficient formal complaints lodged with the standards watchdog that it has now officially launched a formal investigation. That investigation could ultimately see the advert being pulled from screens over the festive period.
While some might argue that issuing a public statement would simply add fuel to the fire for all those determined to see Asda punished for the advertisement, some of whom might not even shop at the supermarket, the company is still failing to reassure its actual customers, that is those who were genuinely upset by the ad, that it never intended to offend them. Meanwhile the sexism accusations continue to snowball: the row has even been reported by news organisations in the U.S. and Australia.
Some marketers believe that Asda has to immediately front up and take ownership of the problem because its reputation is now on the line.
When LinkedIn had its problems earlier this year, it buried its head in the sand, and its brand reputation suffered as a consequence. What these same marketers are arguing is that the company needs to put a public face to the private statement issued. Such an approach worked for 02 when the network went down in July without damaging the brand. What Asda simply can’t afford to do is ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Fahers4Jutsice will ensure that just won’t happen.