A lot has been made of the ASA’s announcement that it will more strongly regulate gender stereotypes in ads. Here are four points worth noting from the report.
1. Extending existing work
The report advocates an extension of the ASA’s existing work on gender. At the moment, ads that objectify or inappropriately sexualise women can be banned. The CAP report proposes formalising the framework in this area and extending it to look at gender in terms of:
- Mocking people for not conforming to stereotypes
- Body image
2. The public believes brands have a responsibility to ensure ads aren’t offensive or harmful
Reading through the qualitative research part of the report is a reminder that people are aware of the ubiquity of advertising and its power to normalise stereotypes and body image.
One participant is quoted as saying, “If you are seeing it all the time, you just get used to it… it becomes the norm doesn’t it.”
There is particular concern among the public in the way children and young people can be affected or even harmed by advertising. It is an issue brands should take seriously.
3. That responsibility extends to social media
The concern for children and young people extended beyond advertising into social media. Again, the qualitative research part of the report is revealing.
This comment, by a 15 year old girl in York really stands out, “Singularly, no but put together and seen on a daily basis then yes. Let’s say you follow Topshop on Instagram and you check it every day. You see that kind of picture every day. Then you get into that mindset that this is what you’re meant to look like. Especially if you see it from a young age. “
It’s a powerful reminder that the daily repetition of images and messages not only sells products, but also leaves a lasting impression on people.
4. It’s not censorship
While the mooted changes will alter how the ASA assesses ads, they don’t affect the process. People will still have to complain about an ad before the ASA will review it and issue its decision. The days of controversial ads are not over.