The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has officially brought its ban on “harmful stereotypes” in ads into force – just under two years after it first launched a review into the issue.
The ban will not ban gender stereotyping in ads completely, only covering what the ASA and its sister company, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), deem “likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
“We’re becoming far more ‘woke’ as a society and it’s becoming more difficult to achieve affinity with potentially offensive stereotypes. The people you see in content, in ads and other material shape the way you see the world, yourself and the possibilities for yourself. Stressed, tired new mums don’t want to be told their value is related to ‘getting back in shape’. Women and men don’t want to be told that their value and looks are intrinsically linked or that certain bodies are worth more than others,” said Emily Knox, head of social and content Tug.
“Ads need to reflect the ethos of our society today and brands such as Lynx, Pot Noodle and LadBible have started to do so by consciously moving towards a more enlightened stance which accepts diversity, breaks down ideas associated with toxic masculinity and takes male mental health issues seriously. The CAP ban should remind marketers and all content creators that we need to try harder and be more considerate of our audiences.”
Ads being hooked include those that show a man creating mess and leaving it to a woman to clean it up on her own; ads that show people failing at something just because of their gender; and ads that belittle a man for carrying out ‘female’ roles; among others.
Gender stereotypes that can still be advertised under the ban include showing a woman doing the shopping or a man doing DIY; ads aimed at one gender; gender stereotypes being used to challenge their negative effects; and more.
“The big takeaway from the ASA’s ban is that it has formally acknowledged that stereotyping in ads does in fact impact how people perceive gender roles. It might sound obvious, but it’s a significant step from the ASA to make it clear that ads showing women taking on traditional roles – like doing the dishes or cleaning up after the kids – only perpetuates a certain gender narrative. The ban shows that we can’t condone ads that reinforce damaging stereotypes; it’s a positive outcome not only for business, but also society,” said Sue Unerman, chief transformation officer at MediaCom UK.
“It’s also important that the industry sees the ban as a sign that it can no longer rely on gender stereotypes to sell products. It is, frankly, lazy advertising. Good ads don’t do it, because the inherent job of advertising is to speak to truth and represent the world around us accurately and fairly. The move by the ASA will make the industry pull up its socks and push for ads that are based on true insight into the audience, not simply assumptions about consumers.
“One of the most important questions is whether the ban will lead to more diversity not only in front of the camera, but behind it. For the ban to have a true impact on the media industry, and if we want to see ads reflect a more equal, balanced and representative society - then we need more women directors, writers, creatives and photographers working behind the scenes producing the ads themselves.”