The UK's Committees of Advertising Practice ("CAP") announced that it has revised its Advertising Codes to ban the use of gender stereotypes in advertising. The new rule states, "Marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence." The rule, which is enforced by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, goes into effect on June 14, 2019.
CAP also released detailed guidance on how to apply the new rule. When considering whether an ad violates the rule, the ASA will "consider stereotypes from the perspective of the group of individuals being stereotyped." According to the guidance, the use of humor is "unlikely to mitigate against the types of harm or serious or widespread offence identified in this guidance."
The guidance also provides numerous examples of the types of scenarios that are likely to violate the new rule, including:
- An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating a mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
- An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve task specifically because of their gender (e.g., a woman not being able to park a car).
- An ad which a man is belittled for displaying emotional vulnerability.
- An ad that depicts a person who is unhappy with multiple aspects of their life and that suggests that their problems were solved by changing their body shape to conform to gender-stereotypical norms.
- Ads that explicitly depict children of a specific gender from being excluded from an activity.
- Ads that mock groups or individuals for not conforming to stereotypical expectations of their gender.
The guidance also indicated that the new rule was not intended to prevent ads from featuring:
- glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational, or healthy people or lifestyles;
- one gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender; or
- gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.
CAP issued the guidance after conducting an extensive review of issues related to gender stereotypes in advertising. It will be interesting to see how the new rule impacts advertising in the UK -- and whether other countries (including the US) follow suit.
"The review found evidence suggesting that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes."