The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received some 128 complaints about a Mondelez ad for Philadelphia soft cheese which featured two dads leaving a baby on a restaurant buffet conveyor belt while they were distracted by the food.
Viewers said the ad perpetuated a harmful stereotype by suggesting that the men were incapable of caring for children.
Under new rules that came into effect on 14 June, adverts “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
In response to the backlash, Mondelez UK argued that the ad showed a positive image of men with a responsible and active role in childcare in modern society.
The company added that it chose two dads to deliberately avoid the typical stereotype of new mothers with the responsibility of childcare.
Ad clearance agency Clearcast said the dads’ agreement to “let’s not tell mum” was a “commonplace exclamation signifying embarrassment” that could equally be applied in role reversal.
It added that the ad represented a “careless, momentary and harmless distraction”.
The ASA said the ad was intended to be light-hearted and comical but portrayed the men as “somewhat hapless and inattentive, which resulted in them being unable to care for the children effectively”.
Three people complained about an ad for the Volkswagen eGolf car which they claimed showed men engaged in adventurous activities in contrast to a woman in a care-giving role.
The ad featured sleeping woman and a man in a tent on a sheer cliff face, two male astronauts floating in a space ship and a male para-athlete with a prosthetic leg doing the long jump before a final scene showed a woman sitting on a bench next to a pram.
Volkswagen UK said that the ad made no suggestion that care-giving was uniquely associated with women, and the fact the woman was calm and reading could be seen as going against the stereotypical depiction of harassed or anxious parents in advertising.
The ASA said it concluded that the ad presented gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code.
Geraldine Ingham, head of marketing for Volkswagen UK, said: “As both a leader within this business and as a mother, I do not believe that the roles of the women in this advertisement are in any way portrayed negatively.
“Just like the men, they are shown taking part in challenging situations, such as in a tent perched on a mountainside and in a spacecraft, while another is shown to be embarking on what is surely life’s greatest and most valuable role – raising another human being.”
A Mondelez spokeswoman said: “We are extremely disappointed with the ASA decision. We take our advertising responsibility very seriously and work with a range of partners to make sure our marketing meets and complies with all UK regulation.”