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Ads and gender stereotyping - new UK rules now in force

As of Friday 14 June 2019, the new UK rules prohibiting use of harmful gender stereotypes in advertising are now in force (see rule 4.6 of the CAP Code (for non-broadcast media) and 4.14 of the BCAP Code (for broadcast media) as well as the ASA's guidance, a link to which is provided alongside each rule).

The same rule has been added to both codes, as quoted below, which prohibits: marketing communications or ads that are likely to cause harm, or, serious or widespread offence.

This type of rule is not unique to the UK, with over 20 other countries already having rules relating to gender stereotyping (as noted by the ASA in its research). The rule is arguably also a long time coming, with the ASA having started to consider the issue back in 2012.

From a practical perspective, it is important to note:

  • This is not an outright ban on use of gender stereotypes, it is an attempt to stop the use of harmful stereotypes (ads, can, for example, still show one gender and a product aimed at one gender, but they cannot explicitly convey that a product or activity is inappropriate for a certain gender).  See the article referenced below for more details;
  • The ASA is likely to consider the stereotypes from the view point of the group/persons being stereotyped along with considering the content and context; and
  • Whilst the rule does not explicitly say so, the use of humour is unlikely to assist in avoiding breaching the new rules.

For anyone wanting to read more detail about the rule and its application, please see the attached pdf of an article I co-authored with Ella Castle: 

"Gender Stereotypes in Advertising—Are Rules Catching Up with Public Opinion?" 

(Please note - this material was first published by Thomson Reuters, trading as Sweet & Maxwell, 5 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AQ, in Entertainment Law Review (2019) 30 Ent. L.R., Issue 4, and is reproduced by agreement with the publishers.)

[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.


uk, advertising, asa, gender stereotypes, advertising rules