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New advertising rule preventing depiction of harmful gender stereotypes

New advertising rule preventing depiction of harmful gender stereotypes

  • United Kingdom
  • Technology, Media and Telecoms - Media



New advertising rule to be introduced on 14 June 2019 to prevent adverts from depicting harmful gender stereotypes. The ASA has provided detailed guidance about the type of ads that will be unacceptable.



In June 2016 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) initiated a project[1] addressing whether existing advertising regulation adequately dealt with the potential for harm, or serious or widespread offence arising from gender stereotyping in ads. ASA published a research report[2] in July 2017 concluding that more needed to be done to tackle ads depicting harmful gender stereotypes.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) launched a public consultation in May 2018 on proposals by CAP and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) for a new rule to tackle harmful gender stereotyping, and released an evaluation[3] of those responses in December 2018. An accompanying regulatory statement[4] set out that based on the evidence, a new rule and guidance would be introduced.

 New rule and guidance

On 14 December 2018, CAP announced that on 14 June 2019 a new CAP rule 4.9 and new BCAP rule 4.14 will be introduced requiring that advertisements:

“must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.

CAP also published advertising guidance[5] (Guidance) on the new rule which w be taken into account by the ASA when assessing ads depicting a gender stereotype. The Guidance states that neither the rule nor the Guidance are intended to prevent ads from featuring:

 glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles;

 one gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender;

 gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.

The Guidance notes that gender stereotypes can have a potentially harmful impact on persons who share the protected characteristics of gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, sex or sexual orientation.

The Guidance gives a non-exhaustive list of examples which are likely to be unacceptable under the new rule including:

  • an ad which depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating a mess around a home while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up;
  • an ad that depicts a man being adventurous juxtaposed with a woman being delicate or dainty;
  • an ad in which a man is belittled for displaying emotional vulnerability;
  • an ad that depicts a person who was unhappy with multiple aspects of their life, then implies that all their problems were solved by changing their body shape alone to conform to gender-stereotypical norms, without addressing other aspects of their life;
  • an ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping the home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing; and
  • an ad that mocks groups or individuals for not conforming to stereotypical expectations of their gender.

So what?

Brands should pay close attention to the new rule and Guidance, particularly in the positioning of their product/service to their target audience. Importantly, the Guidance states that the use of humour is unlikely to mitigate against the types of harm or serious or widespread offence identified in the Guidance.






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