Ban on harmful gender stereotypes in ads to be enacted

Posted on: Friday 14 December 2018

From June next year, broadcast and online ads will not be allowed to portray harmful gender stereotypes.

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A ban on harmful gender stereotypes in the advertising industry is to come into force, after a public consultation on the issue. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced that this decision will be reflected in the way it writes and maintains the UK Advertising Codes.

The new rule will apply to both broadcast and non-broadcast media, meaning social media and other online sites will be included. It states that advertisements “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.

Audiences will see the difference from June 14th 2019 and those in the industry will need to start planning their upcoming campaigns with the changes in mind. Gender stereotyping has been under review by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which found that ads can play a part in unequal gender outcomes.

This occurs through harmful stereotypes affecting the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults. Reinforcing the presumed gender roles through advertising was therefore found to be inappropriate and followed up by CAP, which canvassed the public on the matter.

It discovered that the proposed restrictions were supported by the majority of respondents, highlighting the need for limiting gender stereotypes in today’s society. Not all stereotypes will be banned under the new rules, just those aligned to pre-identified specific harmful tropes.

To help guide advertisers on what the new rules will mean in practice, CAP has provided a number of scenarios that would be problematic come June next year. They include an ad that shows a man resting with his feet up, while a family creates mess around him and the female character being solely responsible for the clean-up.

What the rules will not do is prevent ads from depicting glamorous, successful or healthy people. Ads featuring a single gender when the product is targeted at that sex will also be fine, as will gender stereotypes that are portrayed for the purposes of challenging their negative effects.

Ella Smillie, CAP’s gender stereotyping project lead, said: “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society.

“They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.”

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