Retail Compass Summer edition 2019

New rules banning harmful gender stereotyping in advertising

Published on 04 July 2019

The new CAP rules apply to all advertising from 14 June 2019 onwards.

What is happening?

 Following a review by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), new rules from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) now prohibit the use of gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm.

Why does it matter?

Any advertisements that include “...gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence” are now prohibited. 

These stereotypes potentially include:

  • Gender-stereotypical roles and characteristics (eg a woman being solely responsible for cleaning the home while the man relaxes),

  • Pressure to conform to an idealised gender-stereotypical body shape or physical features (eg attributing an idealised physique or body shape to success or happiness),

  • Scenarios aimed at or featuring children (eg showing children of a specific gender being excluded from or dismissive of an activity),

  • Scenarios aimed at or featuring potentially vulnerable groups (eg showing young people that an idealised physique or appearance equates to social or romantic success), and

  • Scenarios featuring people who don’t conform to a gender stereotype (eg mocking groups or individuals for not conforming to stereotypical expectations of their gender).

 The ASA will consider an advertisement’s likely impact when taken as a whole and in context after a complaint from the viewpoint of the group of individuals being stereotyped. Humour may be used as a mitigating factor but there is no guarantee this will lead to compliance.

The ASA will assess complaints on a case-by-case basis. Companies in breach will face sanctions levied by CAP or the ASA, including restrictions or prohibitions on future advertising.

It’s more important than ever for retailers to be careful about how they portray gender. Any breach, or even perception of a breach, could result in significant damage to your brand. To learn more about this, please see this article on RPC’s Retail Therapy blog.

What action should you take?

  1. Ensure that your advertising does not use gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, even if the intention is to be humorous.

  2. If any advertisements might display potentially harmful gender stereotypes or you have concerns, have your legal advisers guide you to raise any potential risks and work with you to achieve compliance.

Stay connected and subscribe to our latest insights and views 

Subscribe Here