UK Ad Watchdog Ain’t Putting Up With Gender Stereotyping No More

UK Ad Watchdog Ain’t Putting Up With Gender Stereotyping No More

The UK ad watchdog is bristling with all this gender stereotyping brands are using in ads. And frankly, they’re fed up with it.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is launching an investigation into gender stereotyping and is requesting evidence from the public on ads that have crossed the line.

“We’re serious about making sure we’re alive to changing attitudes and behaviours,” said Guy Parker, CEO of the ASA.

“That’s why we’ve already been taking action to ban ads that we believe reinforce gender stereotypes and that are likely to cause serious and widespread offence, or harm.

“And that’s also why we want to engage further with a wide range of stakeholders on the effect of gender stereotyping on society, including through our ‘call for evidence’.”

The ASA wants to investigate further into gender stereotyping – objectification and sexualisation of women in ads, unrealistic body expectations, mocking of men and women in stereotypical roles for example – and commission its own research into the proliferation of these practices and the strong stance society is taking against ads that stereotype.

For example, fitness supplement brand Protein World caused a right old stink in 2015 when it slapped posters of a bikini-clad model in London’s underground asking passersby whether they were ‘beach body ready.’

The posters caused an outpouring of rage from commuters who took offence at the objectification of the woman and for suggesting this is what women need to look like.

The CEO of Protein World was having none of the “whingers” and told one social media user to “grow some balls”.

However, the ASA declared the ad did not do serious harm.

Too, as Mother’s Day in Australia is coming up, discount retail chain Big W has made a few customers unhappy by advertising a vacuum cleaner as a great deal for mum.

But it’s not just women that are placed into gender boxes. As Patrick Fahey pointed out to us in September 2014, many men are unfairly portrayed, particularly around Father’s Day.

“Truth be told, men will always want to be made to feel like a man. However, what it means to ‘be a man’ is changing significantly,” he said.

“To this end, brands will need to ditch the stereotypes of yesteryear and keep up to speed in making the modern man feel manly.”

There are many brands though that are trying to move away from gender stereotyping. Target in the States for instance recently removed gender labels in its advertising.

And Barbie recruited a little boy in one of its recent ads saying how fabulous the plastic fashionista was.

Still, the ASA in the UK wants to look at its local ads to see how much of an issue it is.

“The project will report on whether we’re getting it right on gender stereotyping in ads,” said the ASA. “If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited we will set out the best way to achieve it.”