Who: The Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 14 December 2018
Law stated as at: 31 January 2019
The Committee of Advertising Practice has announced a new rule on gender stereotyping which is coming into force on 14 June 2019 following a consultation held in 2018. The new rule prohibits marketing communications from including gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
This rule relates to advertisements which depict gender stereotypes (including conforming or not conforming to such stereotypes) as the sole or significant reason for the way an individual acts or an individual’s success. CAP has highlighted a number of examples which may fall foul of this rule. These include advertisements 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. Portrayals of individuals who do not confirm to an ‘ideal’ physique which is stereotypically associated with a particular gender may also be problematic, where it is implied that this physique is a significant reason for being unsuccessful (e.g. in romantic or social settings).
CAP has released a statement, commenting that: “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society … We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”
CAP clarified that this does not prohibit advertisements which feature people doing stereotypical roles, but cautions marketers against suggesting that such roles are always uniquely associated with one gender or are the only options available to a particular gender.
Why this matters:
Social responsibility in ads has become more of a hot topic for brands in recent years. The recent Gillette ad, which was centred around on issues of gender, sparked debate and was featured widely on international press.
With this new rule enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) from 14 June 2019, marketers will now face both regulatory and consumer pressure to carefully consider the issue of gender stereotyping in their advertisements. Marketers who deal with consumer products and services which are often targeted at or portray a specific gender (such as household products, children’s toys, or beauty products) will need to be particularly mindful of this new rule.
The application of this new rule will also be guided by any formal adjudications released by the ASA, which will allow marketers to take stock of the regulator’s approach and pragmatically assess potential issues in their ads.