Two years ago the UK's Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) announced a new rule which prohibited the depiction of harmful gender stereotypes in advertising.
In their recent 12 month review published on 17 December 2020, the ASA has concluded that the rules and related guidance are meeting their policy objectives. However, they recognised that there are some uncertainties relating to the scope of application of the rule. They have clarified that the rule was also intended to apply in cases concerning sexualisation, objectification and body image in which the consideration of harmful and/or offensive gender stereotypes come into play and included additional explanatory text on page 3 of the Advertising Guidance.
The ASA will continue to carry out additional monitoring on the basis that a number of guidance principles within the CAP guidance remain untested in published ASA rulings. Those areas include:
- ads that featured pressure to conform to an idealised gender-stereotypical body shape or physical features;
- ads that were aimed at or featured children,
- ads aimed at or featuring potentially vulnerable groups; and
- ads that contained depictions that mocked people for not conforming to gender stereotypes
This guidance covers categories of gender stereotypes, which – at the time of publication – are not reflected, or not reflected adequately, in past ASA decisions. The ASA has, however, ruled against other categories of harmful and/or offensive stereotypes associated with gender; these rulings are reflected in the following notes of guidance: Offence: sexualisation and objectification Social responsibility: body image Children: sexual imagery The ASA may apply the rule (CAP rule 4.9 and BCAP rule 4.14) in considering complaints of ads that fall under the above referenced categories.