New Ad Standards in Britain Combat Gender Stereotypes

Posted on by Patty Odell

Britain’s advertising watchdog group is developing new advertising standards targeting ads that feature stereotypical gender roles.

gender stereotypes
The report also found that a number of advertisers have begun to identify the commercial advantages of rejecting gender stereotypes.

In a new report, the Advertising Standards Agency signaled that there is an “evidence-based case” for tougher standards of ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which might be harmful to people, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.

“Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children. Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take,” said the report leader Ella Smillie in a statement.

In response to the report, “Depictions, Perceptions and Harm: A Report on Gender Stereotypes in Advertising,” ASA’s sister body, Committees of Advertising Practice, which authors the UK Advertising Codes, will develop, administer and enforce the new standards. CAP will also “clarify standards” already set on ads that objectify or sexualize people or infer that it’s ok for people to be unhealthily-thin.

While the agency is not calling for a ban on ads depicting a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks, it did outline a number of depictions that it finds problematic. They include:

• An ad which depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up

• An ad that suggests a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa

• An ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks

“Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people.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

Last month, during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, marketers from some of the world’s largest brands talked about personal experiences that changed their thinking about sexism and diversity.

The marketers included Marc Pritchard from Procter & Gamble, AT&T’s chief brand officer Fiona Carter and Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer at Unilever. Some of their tales indicate they had specific moments when, in viewing their own campaign work, they realized that women and multicultural demographics were not being represented appropriately and that they had the power and responsibility to make change.


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