UK advertising regulator The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has followed through on its pledge to formalise the way it regulates ads containing gender stereotypes, by launching a public consultation on toughened new rules in addition to guidance as to how these new rules are likely to be manifested in practice.
The industry has broadly welcomed moves to clarify the thorny issue which will see a new rule added to the Advertising Codes covering both broadcast and non-broadcast content upon the consultation’s close on 26 July.
This will for the first time expressly prohibit ads which ‘include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence. It illustrates this new approach by setting out some examples which would be likely to fall foul of the new rule.
They include advertisements which ‘belittle’ a man for carrying out stereotypically female tasks or a presentation which suggests gender is the leading reason for a person failing to complete a task – such as a man changing a nappy or a woman parking a car.
Ella Smillie, CAP’s gender stereotyping project lead, said: “Our review of the evidence strongly indicates that particular forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take. The set of standards we’re proposing aims to tackle harmful gender stereotypes in ads while ensuring that creative freedom expressed within the rules continues to be protected.”
CAP’s move follows publication of an ASA report last year – Depictions, Perceptions and Harm, which laid out the evidence-based case for tighter regulation of ads which unfairly restrict people’s choices, aspirations and opportunities.
The advertising industry is already in the throws of change with a majority already employing more diverse imagery.