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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.