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Sexism in ads to be investigated by ASA amid growing debate on equality issues


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

April 28, 2016 | 3 min read

An investigation into gender stereotyping by brands could soon change the way the Advertising Standards Authority regulates campaigns which appear to objectify or sexualise women.

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The watchdog announced today that it is set to launch the research project following increasing political and public debate around equality issues.

The study will report on whether current rules on gender stereotyping in ads need to be tightened up, and while the research will also look at the way men and boys are depicted in advertising, it's likely that the portrayal of women will court the most scrutiny.

The project will analyse evidence of gender stereotyping in ads, and call on industry stakeholders to share their views. The ASA will also commission its own study into public opinion around topics like sexualisation, the mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, gender-specific marketing to children and presentations of idealised or unrealistic body images.

If the evidence suggests that a change in regulation is needed then the watchdog will "set out the best way to achieve it".

It follows a string of controversial ads, such as Protein World's 'Beach Body Ready' billboards (above) which escaped a ban despite last year being labeled "sexist" and "body shaming", prompting 378 official complaints and a petition calling for it to be removed which clocked up 70,000 signatures.

Guy Parker, the ASA's cheif executive said: “We’re serious about making sure we’re alive to changing attitudes and behaviours. That’s why we’ve already been taking action to ban ads that we believe reinforce gender stereotypes and are likely to cause serious and widespread offence, or harm.

“And that’s also why we want to engage further with a wide range of stakeholders on the effect of gender stereotyping on society, including through our ‘call for evidence’," he added.

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