ASA unveils plan to crack down on gender stereotyping ads

By Sarah Parsons 18-Jul-2017

The advertising watchdog's new guidelines aims to protect consumers from campaigns that objectify and mock people for not conforming to stereotypes

MAC's ad featuring Miley Cyrus was accused of being being “overtly sexual” and offensive.

British advertising watchdog ASA is clamping down on campaigns featuring stereotypical gender roles.

In a report released today, entitled Depictions, Perceptions and Harm, revealed that a stronger positioning would be taken against ads that not only portray gender bias, but also mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.

A blanket ban will not be enforced, but ads will be considered on a case by case basis.

Disallowed ads includes those that suggest a specific activity is inappropriate for boys or girls because it is stereotypically associated with the other gender.

Similarly an ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks will not be tolerated.

“Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people,” said Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker.

“While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”

According to the ASA, its review into gender stereotypes and advertising was a result of the public’s reaction to the 2015 ‘beach body ready’ ad.

The infamous poster featured a bikini-clad model promoting a weight loss supplement, which critics called socially irresponsible.

Previously ads could be banned on the grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and for suggesting it is desirable for young women to be unhealthily thin.

Most recently, the ASA ordered FemFresh to change a video promoting its new bikini line shaving products on the grounds of objectifying women.

A banned Rimmel mascara ad starring Cara Delevingne was deemed misleading

But the new standards aim to protect consumers from, what the watchdog says, are harmful stereotypes that can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.

The report entitled also said that stereotypes are increasingly acknowledged to be detrimental to the economy and society in general.

“Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children,” said Ella Smillie, Project Lead & Regulatory Policy Executive, CAP.

“Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.

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“Tougher standards in the areas we’ve identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented.”