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CAP's gender stereotypes ban comes into full force

14 Jun 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
CAP's gender stereotypes ban comes into full force

Who remembers Aptamil's 2017 ad, which prescribed a future in dance for girls and a future in maths for boys? How about Huggies' "dad test" for incompetent fathers, or Yorkie's cringe-worthy "NOT for girls" campaign?

Well, as of today all of those ads would likely have been banned, as CAP's new rules on gender stereotyping come into full force following a six month implementation period.

To recap, advertisers are now banned from using any gender stereotypes in their marketing which are "likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence" - covering both broadcast and non-broadcast media, including online advertising and social.

Not everyone is a fan. Six months ago, when the rules were first announced, Mediatel columnist Dominic Mills argued that the regulations felt like "social engineering" and were unnecessary when the court of public opinion usually holds offensive advertising to account itself.

However, while Emily Knox, head of social and content at digital agency Tug, admits that she doesn't think CAP's ban will remove age-old stereotypes or lazy thinking from adland entirely, she does think it might make marketers "think twice".

"The CAP ban should remind marketers and all content creators that we need to try harder and be more considerate of our audiences," Knox says, as marketing can "shape the way you see the world, yourself, and the possibilities for yourself."

Tired new mums don't want to be told that their self-worth depends on getting their pre-baby body back, and neither men nor women want to feel that their value and their looks are intrinsically linked.

"Ads need to reflect the ethos of our society today," Knox adds, praising brands like Lynx, Pot Noodle and LadBible for accepting diversity and breaking down ideas associated with "toxic masculinity".

And according to research by consultancy Kantar, representing gender in a progressive and less stereotypical way is not only an "ethical imperative" for advertisers, but also a "business imperative".

Data shows that brands which are either gender balanced or even slightly skewed towards women outperform other brands, with $1bn left on the table by brands which focus more on men.

Yet men are still 38% more likely to be featured prominently in advertising than women, and even when both appear, men are much more likely to be presented in leading roles.

"Advertisers can't play it safe or avoid the issue, paralysed by fear of getting it wrong and alienating customers or receiving a ban from the ASA," says Jane Bloomfield, managing director at Kantar UK.

"They need to show society not as it is now or once was, but present viewers with a future vision on how the world could and should be."

If nothing else, the ban might at least save us some eye rolls.


Michaela Jefferson is Mediatel News' reporter covering all aspects of the media industry.

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14 Nov 2019 

Data from Mediatel Connected
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