ASA ban on gender stereotypes in advertising long overdue

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has for the first time banned two adverts due to gender stereotyping. It’s a welcome line in the sand that sends a clear message about equality and the need for change.

Car maker Volkswagen and Mondelez, the manufacturer of Philadelphia cheese, have both been banned from broadcasting their latest television adverts under new UK gender stereotyping rules.

The ASA ruled that the adverts perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes, with Jess Tye, its investigations manager, stating that:

"Ads that specifically contrast male and female stereotypes need to be handled with care. It's about thinking about what the cumulative effect of those gender stereotypes might be."

While the move has drawn some criticism, it is a positive development that signposts that the time for outdated practices and stereotypes is over.

I spoke to BBC Radio Newcastle’s breakfast show to talk about the ban, which is about ensuring both men and women are portrayed fairly.

Tye’s point about gender stereotyping resulting in “real world harm” is an important one. Children in particular absorb and internalise images they see. Lazy advertising reinforces the status quo where women are seen to be the primary and more efficient care givers and men the go-getting adventurers. We have to overturn these outdated tropes.

Part of the problem is a lack of diversity within creative teams in the advertising industry, which has been dogged by claims of sexism. Whether it’s sexism or unconscious bias, it’s time for change.

Ultimately brands with strong audience insight are able to better target their customers with relevant content, resulting in greater loyalty and sales. It’s not rocket science. Long may the watchdog’s new found teeth bite.

Image taken from MondelezUK.