Brands could face a clampdown on the objectification, sexualisation and stereotyping of both men and women in advertising after the watchdog launched a new probe into the issue.
The Advertising Standards Authority said the move has been prompted by public debate on the matter. While the regulator will look at the depiction of men and boys in advertising, it is the portrayal of women which is likely to come under the most scrutiny.
The ASA said it will be a three-pronged investigation examining evidence on gender stereotyping in ads, seeking views from a range of stakeholders, and commissioning its own research into public opinion.
While the watchdog regularly batters firms over the gratuitous use of sexual imagery, the move follows the uproar over Protein World’s “Beach Body Ready” ads, which were cleared of breaking rules despite almost 400 complaints and 70,000 signatories to an online petition about its portrayal of women. It later banned the ad only over misleading health and nutrition claims. And last year only one of the top ten most complained about ads was actually outlawed.
In a statement it said: “At this stage we are being open-minded about what stakeholders and research tell us about gender stereotyping in ads and the impact of such advertising, which will shape the project as we move forward. In particular, we are keen for people and organisations to send us any research they have on this issue.”
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “We’re serious about making sure we’re alive to changing attitudes and behaviours. That’s why we’ve already been taking action to ban ads that we believe reinforce gender stereotypes and that are likely to cause serious and widespread offence, or harm.
“And that’s also why we want to engage further with a wide range of stakeholders on the effect of gender stereotyping on society, including through our ‘call for evidence’.
“I look forward to hearing from stakeholders as this important work progresses.”
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