Adverts which depict stereotypical gender roles are to be banned from next year, as they are considered “harmful” and “offensive”.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has ruled that adverts “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”, under new regulations that are set to come into force on 14 June 2019.
The changes in the Advertising Codes will apply to both broadcast and non-broadcast media, including online and social media, and come following a review which suggested harmful stereotypes can “negatively reinforce how people think they should look and behave” due to their gender.
The review found such stereotypes can “restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults”, and their reinforcement by some advertising can play part in “unequal gender outcomes”.
Under the new rules, adverts depicting men struggling to complete domestic tasks, such as changing a nappy, or cleaning the home, will be banned, along with ads showing women prioritising their appearance ahead of their career.
The CAP outlined a number of scenarios which could be considered ‘problematic’ to help guide advertisers, including the following:
- Where an advert features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them being unsuccessful, for example in their romantic or social lives
- An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care
- An advert that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks
- An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors, such as their emotional well-being
- An advert that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender (e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies, or a woman’s inability to park a car)
However, the rule and guidance does not intend to prevent ads from featuring the following:
- 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
Which adverts would face the cut?
The stricter rules coming into force next year will bring a crack down on gender stereotyping, forcing many advertisers to change their approach.
Adverts such as Protein World’s ‘beach body ready’ campaign in 2015, which received a wave of complaints for depicting a bikini-clad model advertising a slimming product, will likely no longer be allowed under the new guidance.
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Similarly, these adverts also caused outrage for their representation of gender, and would now no longer be allowed following the introduction of the new rules:
- Aptamil – The advert for baby milk in 2017 came under fire for showing a girl growing up to become a ballerina, while the boy became a scientist. The ad was accused of reinforcing gender stereotypes.
- Asda – The supermarket’s Christmas advert in 2012 showed an exhausted mother doing all of the festive preparations, and was considered to be negatively reinforcing stereotypical gender roles.
- GAP – The retailer’s 2016 campaign featured a boy wearing an Albert Einstein t-shirt, suggesting he would achieve great academic success, while a girl would become a ‘social butterfly’.
- Yorkie – The chocolate bar used the tagline ‘It’s not for girls’ up until 2002, before being replaced with ‘Man Fuel for Man Stuff’, but the slogan could still be considered as ‘problematic’.
- McCoys – The crisp brand’s advert in 2009 saw a man suctioned out of a pub after playing Donny Osmand’s single, Puppy Love, on the jukebox. His ‘Man Crisps’ were confiscated after his music tastes proved him not man enough.
- Oven Pride – The 2009 television ad for the oven cleaner depicted men as incapable of performing simple household tasks.
Ella Smillie, from the CAP, said, “The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society.
“They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.
“We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”