Shortly after the introduction of CAP’s new rule and guidance regarding harmful gender stereotyping in adverts, the ASA has made its approach clear in its first round of decisions.
Following a public consultation, CAP’s new rule providing that advertisements “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence” was included in the CAP and BCAP Codes with effect from 14 June 2019. CAP’s accompanying advertising guidance states that in its consideration of complaints, the ASA will consider stereotypes from the perspective of the group of individuals being stereotyped, and the use of humour is unlikely to mitigate against harm, or serious or widespread offence.
The ASA made the following decisions under the new rule following complaints of gender stereotyping:
Nestle’s advert for Buxton mineral water features individuals performing ballet, playing the drums and rowing. Complaints were lodged that the advert contained harmful gender stereotypes by placing the men and women performing activities that were stereotypically associated with each gender.
In this instance, the ASA held that the advert instead concentrated on the characteristics allowing each individual to succeed rather than their gender. Nestle’s advert was not banned.
Volkswagen’s recent E-Golf advert featured multiple men undertaking difficult and interesting activities, as well as a closing scene featuring a woman sat next to a pram.
The ASA considered the closing scene, following on from the previous content, depicted women in a stereotypical caregiving role and the advert has been banned under the BCAP Code on the grounds that it contained gender stereotyping likely to cause harm.
An advert for Philadelphia Cream Cheese featured two fathers leaving their babies on a restaurant conveyor belt whilst eating. Complaints alleged that the advert suggested that men were not capable of caring for their children and that this was a harmful stereotype.
The ASA agreed that the advert breached relevant CAP and BCAP Codes by relying on the stereotype that men were not able to care for children as well as women. As mentioned in CAP’s guidance, the use of humour did not mitigate against the likely harm. Consequently, the advert has been banned from appearing again in such form.
The ASA’s Approach to Gender Stereotyping
The ASA has taken a strong approach in its application of the new gender stereotyping rules and businesses should be careful to ensure that they avoid using gender stereotypes in marketing materials and advertising campaigns and note that the use of humour in an attempt to mitigate harm or offence is unlikely to save a campaign.