ASA Report: gender stereotypes in advertising

18 July 2017
Key findings from the ASA's 'Depictions, Perceptions and Harm' report

Today the ASA published its report into gender stereotypes in advertising. It is the product of a lengthy project to test whether the UK Advertising Codes and the ASA’s enforcement of them take proper account of the relevant evidence base.

The 'Depictions, Perceptions and Harm' report finds that ads that feature gender stereotypes have potential to cause harm by contributing to unequal gender outcomes although it recognises that advertising is only one of many different facts that contribute to unequal gender outcomes.

KEY FINDINGS

  • There is support for the ASA’s track record of banning ads that objectify or inappropriately sexualise women and girls and ads that suggest that it is acceptable for young women to be unhealthily thin.
  • There is evidence for a tougher line on ads featuring stereotypical gender roles which through their content and context may be potentially harmful to people, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.     
  • It would be inappropriate and unrealistic to ban ads which for example depict a woman cleaning.     
  • But, subject to context and content considerations, some types of depictions are likely to be problematic, for example:
   
  • An ad that 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
 

Find out more on the ASA website.

NEXT STEPS

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) will develop new standards on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics. The ASA will then administer and enforce those standards. CAP will also use the evidence in the report to clarify standards that reflect the ASA’s existing position on ads that objectify or inappropriately sexualise women and girls, and ads that suggest it is acceptable for young women to be unhealthily-thin.

CAP will report publicly on its progress before the end of this year and has committed to delivering training and advice on the new standards in good time before they come into force in 2018, although it is not clear exactly when next year this will be.

ISBA’S POSITION

We recognise that unequal gender outcomes are harmful and arise out of a complex series of social, political and economic factors including stereotyping. It is good to see the ASA taking a proactive position on this important issue - one which many of our members are already addressing. 

We hope and expect that the standards that CAP issues are clear, consistent and proportionate, taking into account the significant element of subjectivity in this area.

ACTION FOR ISBA

  • To work with CAP and other industry bodies to ensure that the standards produced by CAP are clear, consistent and proportionate, taking account of the huge degree of subjectivity in this area.
  • To work with members to share best practice and ensure that as responsible advertisers they continue to reflect the changing values and views of consumers and other stakeholders.

For more information on the above, please contact me.

Tanya Joseph
Director of Communications, ISBA

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