Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: December 2020
Law stated as at: May 2021
Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, many organisations looked inwards to assess how they can take an actual stand against racial injustice – the ASA was no different. It is easy for any organisation to make grand statements about fighting against racism, but actual change can only be facilitated by individuals and organisations who are willing to tackle this head on, rather than standing on the sideline, waiting for the fourth official to raise up the electronic board and allow you to enter the field of play.
The ASA published an update about its plans to help combat racism. The article recounts the ASA’s strong record of banning adverts that broke the rules on depictions of race and ethnicity. Recently, the ASA has banned the Paddy Power/Floyd Mayweather “#alwaysbetonblack” ad campaign, as well as an ad from Lingscar.com, which it ruled made light of the Black Lives Matter movement and objectified black men in a sexual way.
The ASA acknowledged that societal values and standards are always changing, and their interpretation of advertising rules must change to keep up with the times. The ASA stated that it is not just committed to protecting consumers but also taking meaningful action against harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes, which can fuel real-life prejudices against various ethnic groups.
Why this matters:
The ASA’s recent rulings both involved advertisers that did not initially believe that their messaging was derogatory or offensive. However, it is important to note that while tropes and stereotypes may not always be negative, the repetition of them in adverts could normalise them to the general public.
The ASA has announced that it is serious about taking meaningful action against harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes in adverts. In 2021, it plans to commission a research project which will survey the public on its attitude towards racial stereotypes in ads and how such ads impact their attitudes. The ASA is aiming to work with advertisers and agencies to share insights that arise from their research.
Watch this space.