A new rule written into the UK’s Advertising Codes should mean adverts that perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes are taken off TV.
From today, commercials must not include stereotypes “which are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
According to the ASA, the aim is to identify specific harm that should be prevented, rather than banning gender stereotypes altogether.
Craig Jones, director of communications for the ASA, says: “You won’t see an end to men doing DIY in ads or women doing shopping because we believe that not all gender stereotypes are harmful, but we’ve set out examples of ones we think are harmful, images like a family trashing the house and the mother having sole responsibility for cleaning it up, or men who can’t change nappies.”
People can bring a complaint if they think advertisers have not lived up to the new rule. The ASA says a jury will decide on a case-by-case basis whether an advert is harmful and should or should not be allowed to be broadcast or published.
Mr Jones said the changes follow on from extensive research they carried out.
“We spoke to a lot of people and we found that these images, these outdated portrayals of gender roles in ads have the potential to lead to unequal outcomes.
“They can lead to men and women, but particularly women and young girls, having a narrower sense of their place in the world.”
However, deciding whether advertisers have breached the rules will be a question of interpretation.
Six years ago an advert for supermarket Asda was cleared of being sexist even though more than 600 complaints were made about how it portrayed a stressed out mother having to single-handedly prepare for Christmas – it is questionable whether under the new rules it would be allowed today.
Equally the more recent advert for voice-controlled speaker Amazon Echo called ‘Dad’s Day’ would be allowed, showing a father struggling under the pressure of being left with his new baby on his own.
Sarah Jenkins, chief marketing officer at advertising agency Grey’s, believes the industry shouldn’t struggle to enforce the changes.
“Most agencies are progressive enough to make sure that we’re getting it right already, to make sure were representing men and women already on screen with what we do.
“There’s definitely times when agencies do default, sometimes through laziness, possibly because they don’t have the right representation within their team to call out and go ‘that’s not right, that’s not funny’, sometimes we do make mistakes which is why these regulations are great, great safeguards, a great reminder to do the right thing.”