Australian advertising that depicts women as sole cleaners of household mess and men failing at simple household tasks may be in breach of the Code of Ethics, following a new guidance from the industry’s peak advertising body.
The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has issued the guidance to marketers and advertisers around gender stereotyping in a bid to ensure advertising does not reinforce negative stereotypes.
The guidance relates to the existing Code of Ethics section 2.1, which prohibits advertising which “discriminates against or vilifies a person on the basis of gender”, as well as a range of other bases, including ethnicity, age and sexual preference.
The new guidance features examples of gender stereotyping that would be in breach of the Code, such as depicting family members creating a mess while a woman is the only one tasked with cleaning it up. An advertisement that features a man trying and failing at a simple parental or household task may also be in breach of the Code.
The AANA said the Code does not prohibit advertisers from featuring women or men performing tasks commonly associated with their gender, such as a woman doing the washing or a man doing DIY tasks.
However, Simone Brandon, director of policy & regulatory affairs at the AANA, said, “Advertisers should take care to avoid suggesting that a particular role is exclusively performed by men or women.”
“The AANA’s new guidance aims to reinforce responsible advertising and to provide greater guidance to advertisers and agencies so that they don’t unwittingly reinforce negative stereotypes,” said Brandon.
The AANA said the guidance aims to ensure that advertising “has a positive impact in terms of representing and promoting gender equality in society”. The guidance will also be applied by the Ad Standards Community Panel, which is comprised of members of the Australian public, when determining whether an ad has breached the Code of Ethics.
The move has been welcomed by Unilever which announced its own intention to irradiate stereotypes from its marketing in 2016. Anneliese Douglass, head of media and PR, Unilever Australia and New Zealand said, “We want to eliminate outdated gender stereotypes in our advertising to ensure that we continue to accurately represent the diversity of the communities in which we operate.”
The guidance also advises marketers and advertisers against messaging that discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.
The update comes eight months after Australia's Advertising Standards Board (ASB) was forced to overturn its initial ruling on the controversial Meat and Livestock Australia ad, after an independent review found it had breached the advertising code.