U.K. Ad Industry Moves in Favor of Tighter Regulations on Gender Depictions

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority this week announced that the industry would work to strengthen the rules against negative or sexist gender depictions in ads, which it says can be damaging to the public.

A British regulatory body is calling for tighter rules for advertising within the country, and a major industry group is on board with the strategy.

This week, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a nongovernmental organization funded by the advertising industry, released a report [PDF] suggesting that there’s more work to do on the depictions of gender stereotypes within the ad industry. In particular, the standards group expressed concern that sexist or negative gender depictions could harm the public.

The report comes two years after an advertisement for Protein World, which featured a woman in a bikini and the phrase “Are you beach body ready?,” drew hundreds of formal complaints and a crackdown by London Mayor Sadiq Khan on advertising that promotes unhealthy body images.

While the standards body finds that the industry has effectively banned ads that objectify women, “the evidence suggests that a tougher line needs to be taken on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics, which through their content and context may be potentially harmful to people,” the report states. “This includes ads that mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.”

The report added that the research done by ASA and its sister organization, the Committees of Advertising Practice, had enough evidence to develop standards against the practice “that are easy to understand and easy to implement.” CAP will work to develop such standards by the end of 2017.

“Whilst the majority of gender stereotypes in ads are not harmful, some are, which is why we have made the case for change,” ASA said in a statement to NBC News.

One group that’s speaking up in favor of the moves is the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the official trade group for U.K. ad agencies.

“The IPA welcomes initiatives intended to protect people from potentially harmful advertising, including the use of gender stereotyping, and are encouraged that—as the report points out—the overwhelming majority of ads do not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence,” IPA Director General Paul Bainsfair said in a statement.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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