Adverts depicting girls as ballerinas alongside boys as rock climbers are likely become a thing of the past in Britain under new rules set out by the UK’s advertising watchdog on Tuesday.
The Advertising Standards Authority, which plays a big role in regulating the industry in Britain, said it would take a harder line against adverts that feature common sexist stereotypes or which mock people who do not adopt typical gender roles.
The crackdown follows a barrage of complaints by British consumers about a 2015 campaign by Protein World for weight loss products which featured a bikini-clad model with the tag line “Are you beach body ready?”
The ad, which ran on posters on the London Underground network, is no longer in circulation.
The majority of complaints relate to how women are portrayed, according to ASA research.
A major review based on evidence from an independent study showed that some stereotypes could restrict the choices and opportunities of children and adults, the ASA said.
“Within the ad framework, a drip-drip feed of many ads featuring gender stereotypes for certain roles for boys and girls narrows people’s views in terms of aspirations, what they can do and their role in society,” said ASA senior media relations officer Matt Wilson.
“That’s what we are trying address in our own specific way.”
Previously, the ASA ruled against ads it deemed to promote objectification, inappropriate sexualisation or unhealthy body ideals. The new standards will not ban all gender stereotypes, just those that could cause “potential harm.”
Adverts simply featuring a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY projects would not be considered problematic. However, an ad featuring a woman as solely responsible for cleaning up a mess made by her family, or a man failing to complete a simple household task, would do, ASA said.
The new regulations will be applied only to future advertisements.
ASA said the new standards were being formed now by the Committees and Advertising Practice and were expected to be announced and go into effect in 2018.
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