Gender stereotyping in ads: Investigation

The UK advertising watchdog is to launch an investigation to see whether rules about the objectification, sexualisation and stereotyping of women in ads need to be tightened.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will also look at the depiction of men and boys in advertising, however it is the portrayal of women which is likely to gather the most scrutiny.

Campaigns such as Protein World’s “Beach Body Ready” ads have sparked a huge backlash about body-shaming and objectifying women.

The ASA cleared the campaign of breaking rules despite almost 4oo complaints and 70,000 signatories to an online petition about its portrayal of women.

The advertising watchdog banned the ad for misleading health and nutrition claims.

In recent years, there has been increasing political and public debate on equality issues.  The mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles, and gender-specific marketing to children, as well as concerns regarding objectification, sexualisation and the presentation of an idealised or unrealistic body image are all issues that have gained considerable public interest.

The ASA want to find out more about these issues and others to ensure they continue to be alive to and in tune with prevailing standards when interpreting and applying the rules. Consequently, they will be doing three things: examining evidence on gender stereotyping in ads, seeking views from a range of stakeholders, and commissioning their own research into public opinion.

They are eager to hear about what stakeholders and the research tell them about gender stereotyping in ads and the impact of such advertising, which will help shape the project as the ASA move forward. In particular, they are keen for people and organisations to send any research they have on this issue. Evidence can be sent to gender@asa.org.uk

All evidence submissions are to be sent to the ASA by the end of June 2016.

The project will report on whether the advertising regulator is getting it right on gender stereotyping in ads.  If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited the ASA will set out the best way to achieve it.

Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, has said:

We’re serious about making sure we’re alive to changing attitudes and behaviours. 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.

I look forward to hearing from stakeholders as this important work progresses.