NEWS14 December 2018

Sexist stereotype ads banned from 2019

Media News Trends UK

UK – Advertising will no longer be allowed to depict “harmful” gender stereotypes from June next year, the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) has announced.

Gender crop

The new rule in the advertising codes will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media, including online and social media. It states adverts “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.

The rule will come into effect on 14th June 2019. It follows a review of gender stereotyping in advertising, launched last July by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which found that some ads reinforce “harmful” stereotypes that can restrict people’s choices and opportunities.

The rule does not aim to ban all gender stereotypes, according to Cap, but to “identify specific harms that should be prevented” and help advertisers avoid scenarios that it says are likely to be “problematic”. The examples given by the watchdog include showing:

  • A man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up
  • Someone failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender
  • A person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, where the ad implies that this is a significant reason for them not being successful
  • An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a clean home is a priority over other factors such as emotional wellbeing
  • A man belittled for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks. 

The guidance also states that seeking to “emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality with a girl’s stereotypical personality” should be “handled with care”. 

The guidance does not intend to prevent advertisers from featuring glamorous lifestyles; featuring one gender only; or showing gender stereotypes “as a means to challenge their negative effects”, the organisation said.

Cap said the majority of respondents it spoke to as part of a public consultation supported the proposals. It will conduct a 12-month review after the rule comes into effect.

Ella Smillie, gender stereotyping project lead, Committees of Advertising Practice, 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. We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”