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Do Promotional Marketers need to be worrying about Gender Stereotypes?

Tuesday July 18, 2017 at 4:17pm

Laura Kelly, the IPM’s Regulatory Advisor speaks out on ASA’s tougher standards on Gender Stereotypes


This week the ASA published a report, “Depictions, Perceptions and Harm”, following a major review of gender stereotypes in advertising. It indicates that the ASA intends to take a tougher stance on stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, both male and female. Some will consider this a long needed step in the right direction, but others a restriction on creative freedoms. So does the promotional marketing industry need to be worried?  

It’s rare to see complaints about harm and offence relating to promotions – consumers are more often concerned with misleading headlines, missing conditions and making sure they get their prizes.  However when they do hit the headlines they can cause a stir; a newspaper promotion offering a chance to “Win a date with a Daily Star Page 3 babe”, describing the women as a "sizzling prize" was unsurprisingly ruled by the ASA to be sexist and offensive. It may seem like an archaic idea but this ran just two years ago.  

Hopefully few brands will want to run obviously problematic competitions like the above! But the ASA also wants to target more insidious stereotyping – well known “characters” such as the bumbling, inept father and servile, put upon mother are likely to fall into this category. Brands with links to traditionally gendered items such household products and toys will want to be wary.

Positive spins on gender with inclusive messages are a great way to go, as we’ve seen from the enormous coverage the “This Girl Can” campaign achieved, among others. But brands should also consider whether gender even needs to be part of their targeting strategy. The IPM’s Grand Prix winner this year aimed to engage open minded people who reacted positively to unusual situations, offering free coffee from recycled sewage water. It focussed on what made their customers unique. So perhaps the main takeaway here should be that the best ideas don’t need tired gender stereotypes anyway. If you’re creative, the ASA’s new approach shouldn’t need to frighten you at all.


Don't forget, if you have any questions and you're IPM members, you can contact myself and IPM LAS team for general advice on 020 3848 0447 or via legal@theipm.org.uk.

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