Brands will no longer be able to broadcast advertising that depicts harmful gender stereotypes.

Today, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced a new Advertising Code in relation to gender stereotypes, which will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media from 14 June 2019. The new guidelines were established following a public consultation and research from ASA.

For agencies and brand owners this will mean reviewing existing brand assets to ensure compliance with the new rule as well as becoming more mindful of the type of creative output that is produced. From June next year advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.

CAP has published guidance to help advertisers stick to the new rule by providing examples of scenarios that are likely to be problematic in ads. For example:

  • An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
  • An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies; a woman’s inability to park a car.
  • Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives.
  • An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care.
  • An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
  • An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks.

The rule and guidance does not intend to prevent ads from featuring:

  • Glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles;
  • One gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender;
  • Gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.

This is a positive step forward and follows a shake-up year in the advertising industry. Some brands will undoubtedly be ahead of the game and are already creating ads that are more representative of people’s values, ethics, lives and expectations. Others will need to take a good look internally, reviewing their brand personality; their values, culture and workforce to ensure their workplace is reflective of our diverse society. Only then will we start to see major change in the creative outputs and start to create stronger and more authentic connections with consumers.

According to the most recent Bellwether Report, market research budgets will continue to decrease in 2019, but it seems now more than ever brands need to really talk to their customers and understand what they want. This move will ensure advertisers are not alienating customers in a harmful way through stereotypical assumptions.

Ella Smillie, gender stereotyping project lead, Committees of Advertising Practice, said:

“The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society.  They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.  We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”

Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, said:

“Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements. Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don’t, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society.”

CAP will carry out a 12 month review after the new rule comes into force to make sure it’s meeting its objective to prevent harmful gender stereotypes.

You can read CAP’s Regulatory Statement and their new guidance

Allways Media create brand value, customer engagement and commercial growth for insightful brands. To discuss how we can help your brand resonate more authentically with your audience, please contact Lorraine Fowler on or call 0330 333 8718.