Marketing agencies must adapt to gender rules for ads

marketing agencies

Last Friday saw new rules come into effect across the UK aimed at ending ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes in advertising. But will advertising and marketing agencies be able to adapt?

After all, you can introduce regulations to change any habits, but that doesn’t always mean a cultural shift will follow. Before we get into that, though, let’s start with the basics.

How did this come about?

An Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) review found negative gender stereotypes, often used in adverts, impact how people see themselves. In turn, this changes the role they play in society, restricting choice and aspirations.

Tell us something we didn’t know

The Committees of Advertising Practice— responsible for writing and updating UK codes— responded to the review pro-actively. A new standard for gender portrayal has been developed, and ads must meet this at the minimum.

The ASA will now administer and enforce these standards. Meanwhile, the public will be able to report any commercials they feel contravene the agreed standards.

Advertising and marketing agencies can benefit from playing by the rules

According to data gleaned by Kantar, the impact of negative gender stereotypes in advertising goes well beyond self-criticism. 2/3 of women will skip an ad they deem guilty of this, with 85% saying the film and ad industries currently fail to depict ‘real women’.

Marketing agencies

Isn’t this all quite subjective

To a point, yes. But then a lot of rules regarding advertising are based on subjective opinion. Complaints must be lodged and then a decision is made on whether to uphold the objection or cast it out.

The rules themselves aren’t as tight as the outline may suggest, though. Advertisers will still be able to depict men as DIY guys and women as lead shoppers. What they won’t be able to do is show a man fumbling with a washing machine or woman missing the nail’s head.

Is this really enough?

This Valentine’s Day we rounded up some incredibly sexist campaigns from both a male and female perspective. And, long before that, we compiled a list of eight ads from the 21st Century containing negative gender stereotypes. Neither took us very long.

In short, advertising and marketing agencies have a lot of catching up to do, so this is a much-needed step in the right direction. Having said that, the prevalence of these stereotypes is so high because they are ingrained in culture, not just the media.


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