Purity didn’t trivialise the role of black dads by showing a pregnant woman alone: ad watchdog

Business Insider SA
(Image: Purity/
(Image: Purity/
  • An advert showing a pregnant black mother caring for her toddlers – without a father or male figure present – did not portray black men as absent fathers, a regulator said.
  • The advertising watchdog dismissed a complaint that claimed the commercial was biased against black men.
  • The advert, in fact, aimed to highlight and honour mothers as the primary caregivers in society, said the ARB.
  • The absence of other relationships should not be interpreted to mean that black men are irresponsible.
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A Purity advert did not paint black fathers as absent parents, neither did it trivialise their role, South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has ruled.

In the advert, a black woman is shown touching her pregnant belly. The woman, cradling what appears to be a newborn baby, has a smile on her tearful face. Throughout the advert, the woman is shown in different scenes where she feeds and bathes her daughter as a baby, then later shows the child as a pre-school toddler.

A voice-over accompanies the advert with a female voice saying; “I hope that you’ll always know how much I love you”.

“I hope that you will be brave, joyful, and kind... and that one day when you look at me, and I look at you, we will love the wonderful you that you’ve become,” it further says.

That there was not a male figure present throughout the advert was the point of contention and was interpreted to mean that black mothers go through the struggles of raising children alone. The ad was also blamed for portraying black society and black men in a negative light.

On behalf of Purity’s makers, Tiger Brands, attorneys Spoor and Fisher said a reasonable viewer would not interpret the commercial as discriminatory based on race or gender.

It said the use of the mother and child or children in the advert was a creative tool to help it portray the bonding moments between a mother and child and to reflect South Africa’s population, made up mostly of black people.

“The commercial is… a tribute to the trials, tribulations, and joys of parenthood faced by mothers in South Africa,” Spoor and Fisher said.

“It understands that it is not in all, or even in many circumstances, that a child, or children, are raised by only a mother without other caretakers; however, generally, mothers are still considered to be the primary caregivers in societies,” it said.

It said failure to show other caretakers, such as males or fathers, should not be seen as intent to trivialise their role in raising a child and said it should be viewed as honouring and emphasising the role that mothers as primary caregivers.

In its ruling that dismissed the complaint, the ARB’s decision-making directorate agreed with the Purity commercial’s message about paying tribute to the trials, tribulations, and joys of parenthood mothers face in the country.  

While the role of fathers is a sensitive matter, particularly in the black community, the commercial did not nullify the existence of other relationships, nor did it carry any biases against black men and portray them as irresponsible.

“There is also nothing in the commercial that specifically portrays black men negatively, discriminates against them or demeans them in a way or manner that is envisioned by the [Advertising] Code,” the directorate said.

“The directorate, however, acknowledges that there is, to some degree, [the] use of role-stereotype in this commercial with regard to the primary role that mothers play as parents,” it said.

However, in the context of the advert’s creative intentions, the directorate did not believe that the use of the stereotype was harmful or discriminatory.

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