Food and beverage giant Nestle has been forced to defend a recent television advertisement for its Sweetened Condensed Milk after numerous consumers complained to the Advertising Standards Board that the ad is ‘sexist’.
The ad features actor Nick Harrington, seen to be only wearing an apron in a kitchen mixing ingredients, when two women not on camera comment about the addition of the Sweetened Condensed Milk
Towards the end of the advertisement Harrington lifts the head of the electric mixer before switching it off, causing him to be splattered with cream.
Consumers complained to the advertising watchdog saying “were roles reversed, with a young woman and older men, many people would object”.
“Sexism works both ways. The young man is being objectified,” one complainant said.
Nestle responded to the complaints by saying the ad was intended to depict a male baker in a “humorous and off-beat manner”.
“While there might be an initial hint of a double entendre in the opening lines – with the women admiring our hero baker, it is soon apparent that the women are in fact talking about the lavish spread on the bench and the product being advertised and not the baker in the kitchen,” the company said.
“The tone used by the women is light hearted and flirty and the baker clearly interacts with the camera. There is no suggestion that the women are treating the baker in a manner which amounts to discrimination or vilification.”
In two separate case reports, the Advertising Standards Board disagreed with the consumers’ concerns and sided with Nestle, seeing the man as ‘empowered’ and ruling the ad was not degrading to men.
“The advertisement did not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading of any individual or group of people.”
In a statement provided to the board from Nestle, the company argues that with 37% of ‘sweet creation’ baking moments created by men, the company was simply appealing to their target consumer in a ‘humorous and off-beat manner’.
Melbourne University senior lecturer Dr Lauren Rosewarne told SmartCompany she agrees with the board’s conclusion, saying the man in the advertisement was “presented as sexy and remains powerful, as opposed to objectified”.
When asked whether she thought a woman in Harrington’s position would yield the same response, Rosewarne said “complainers would have an easier road if it was a woman, for a man it’s ironic and supposed to be seen as humorous”.
“It’s getting a little bit ridiculous,” says Rosewarne. “Assuming offence for a group of people that don’t care.”
SmartCompany contacted Nestle but did not receive a response prior to publication.