On 14 December 2018, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) announced a new rule, accompanied by detailed guidance, would be introduced in the UK Advertising Codes, applying to both broadcast and non-broadcast advertising, which prohibited the depiction of harmful gender stereotypes in advertising:
[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
The introduction of the rule and guidance followed the publication of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) report Depictions, Perceptions and Harm, pre-consultation with industry practitioners and a public consultation. The rule and guidance came into effect on 14 June 2019 after a 6-month implementation period.
In regulatory statement, CAP and BCAP committed to carry out a 12-month review to consider whether the rule and guidance are meeting their policy objective in preventing harmful gender stereotypes and whether additional monitoring is required.
CAP have now concluded the 12-month review, which primarily involved an analysis of ASA casework, and took into account stakeholder responses and relevant third party research. The review concluded that the rule and guidance are meeting their policy objectives and CAP consider that wording of the rule and the guidance should be retained.
However, CAP are aware that there are some uncertainties amongst stakeholders relating to the scope of application of the rule. For clarity, 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. CAP have included additional explanatory text on page 3 of the Advertising Guidance, on depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence, to explain that the ASA may apply this rule in cases concerning those areas in which it has established positions.
They 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.
CAP will continue to update the relevant AdviceOnline guidance on Harm and Offence: Gender Stereotypes, Offence: Sexualisation and Objectification, Social Responsibility: Body Image, Children: Sexual Imagery to reflect key positions in published ASA rulings.
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