Asda's Christmas advert featuring a mother who appeared to be almost single-handedly carrying out the preparations has been cleared following more than 600 complaints that it was offensive and sexist.
The supermarket giant's major Christmas campaign showed the mother buying the tree, writing cards, buying groceries, decorating her home, wrapping presents and cooking the Christmas dinner, with a voice-over at the end saying: "It doesn't just happen by magic. Behind every great Christmas there's mum, and behind mum there's Asda."
The majority of the 620 complainants objected that the ad was offensive and sexist because it reinforced outdated stereotypes of men and women in the home.
A number objected that it was likely to cause serious offence to single fathers or to men who played a primary domestic role and some others believed it was offensive and distressing to children or families who had lost mothers.
Defending the campaign, Asda said a survey of 1,896 customers who were mothers found around eight in 10 were responsible for the food and present shopping and wrapping the presents, adding that it intended to portray a scene which reflected the Christmas experience of the majority of its shoppers.
It also pointed out that the father played a positive role by helping with preparations, hosting the family and looking after the children. ITV, which screened the ad, argued that it depicted a broadly positive stereotypical depiction of the role of mothers at Christmas, adding that "in general, stereotypical portrayals were inevitably based on truisms".
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said viewers were likely to understand that the ad was attempting to reflect the Christmas experience of a significant number of its customers rather than a prescriptive view.
It said: "We therefore considered the ad was not likely to be seen as condoning or encouraging harmful discriminatory behaviour or reinforcing negative stereotypes of men or women in general and, for those reasons, considered it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence."
While it acknowledged that single fathers and men with primary domestic responsibilities might find the presentation of the mother playing the central role "distasteful", it also noted that the ad showed the father assisting in the Christmas preparations, concluding that: "We therefore considered the ad was not likely to cause serious offence to single fathers or to men who played a primary domestic role and concluded that the ad did not breach the code."
The ASA also said that while the theme of the ad might upset some people, including children, who had lost mothers, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or distress to those viewers.