Advertising watchdog launches investigation into gender stereotyping


A watchdog is to scrutinise gender stereotyping in UK advertising with a view to tighter regulation "if merited".

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has already banned a number of ads it believes were likely to cause offence by reinforcing gender stereotypes, but it is launching a new project "to make sure we're alive to changing attitudes and behaviours".

The ASA is calling for evidence on issues such as the objectification and sexualisation of women in ads, presenting an idealised or unrealistic body image, the mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles and gender-specific marketing to children.

Protein World's
Protein World's "beach body ready" campaign was cleared by the ASA (Catherine Wylie/PA)

It noted that all had gained considerable public interest alongside increasing debate on equality issues.

The project will examine evidence on gender stereotyping in ads, seek views from a range of stakeholders and commission research into public opinion before reporting back on whether the ASA is "getting it right".

The ASA added: "If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited we will set out the best way to achieve it."

Among the ads already banned by the ASA was one for the slimming aid XLS Medical in February, which attracted 200 complaints, on the grounds that it promoted an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence.

Another in July last year for the Vivastreet online classified ads service featured three women and the text "A little bit of Bella ... A little bit of Layla ... A little bit of Nicola ... Get your own little bit at" and was banned following complaints that it objectified women and implied that they could be bought on the website.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker 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 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."