Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 20 June 2019
Law stated as at: 14 June 2019
Back in December 2018, CAP announced a new rule on gender stereotyping. The new rule came into force on 14 June 2019 and will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media. Marketers have had six months to prepare for this new rule and the ASA has confirmed that it will deal with complaints on a case-by-case basis.
The new rule states that ads “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence“. The ASA provided examples of adverts that are likely to fall foul of the new rule. Scenarios which depict a man or woman failing to do a task specifically due to their gender, such as where a man is unable to change nappies or a woman is unable to park a car, are likely to be banned by the regulator.
Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA noted that “Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us. Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential. It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals, and we’re pleased with how the industry has already begun to respond”.
CAP will review the new rule in 12 months to ensure that its objective to prevent harmful gender stereotypes is bearing fruit.
Why this matters:
A review on gender stereotyping by the ASA suggested that harmful stereotypes can restrict the aspirations of young people. Marketers have a moral obligation to ensure that they do not play a part in unequal gender outcomes and they will now face increased regulatory and consumer pressure to comply with the new rule.
The ASA’s review did not show that gender stereotypes always caused harm, so the regulator has stated that it will look at the ads in context. It is, therefore, important to note that the rules will not stop ads featuring (for example) a woman doing the shopping or a man doing DIY. Where a product is developed for and aimed at a specific gender, the ASA will not necessarily look to ban the ad if it features one gender only.
As ever, advertisers will be guided by the ASA’s approach to enforcing the new rule in formal adjudications.