ASA gender stereotype ad ban comes into full force to prevent 'harmful messaging'

Ads that show a man with his feet up while a woman is solely responsible for cooking or cleaning up mess will be banned

After the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed in December it would be implementing stricter rules regarding gender stereotyping in ads, it has now brought the ban into force.

The ASA and sister agency the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) decided to impose the new rules after commissioning a report that found "a tougher line was needed on ads that featured stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm".

The ad watchdog ruled that as harmful stereotypes can restrict the "choices, aspirations and opportunities" of children, young people and adults, adverts that reinforce them should be avoided in advertising.

The ASA gave the advertising industry six months to prepare for the ban, which the CAP enforced on Friday (14 June).

Although the fresh rules will challenge brands on their depiction of gender stereotypes, the ASA itself has admitted it isn't intending to "ban all forms of gender stereotypes" – such as a woman in the kitchen or a man doing DIY.

Scenarios the ASA does deem "problematic" include ads that show a man or woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender, and ads that belittle a man for carrying out stereotypical 'female' roles or tasks. Other contentious depictions (like creative that shows a man with his feet up while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up mess around him) will also be spiked.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, commented on the new ban, stressing that advertising should be a positive and progressive force in society.

He said the new rule tackling harmful gender stereotypes in adverts was "an important addition to the expectations we all have for responsible advertising", noting that "advertising has a crucial role to play in the way society represents itself and this new rule is the next positive step for our industry."

The ASA's chief executive, Guy Parker, added: “Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us.

"Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential. It’s in the interests of women and men, our economy and society that advertisers steer clear of these outdated portrayals, and we’re pleased with how the industry has already begun to respond."

You can see some of the vintage ads that would probably be banned under the new rules here.

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