Advertising stereotypes


When I first heard that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)  said it will ban adverts that promote gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence, I thought here we go, political correctness has gone mad. The more I think about it, however, the more I support their approach.

According to a report on the BBC, the action is being taken following a review of gender stereotyping in adverts, which found that ‘harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults’ and that these stereotypes can be ‘reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes’.

The legislation came into force in June this year but it is back in the news as two adverts have now been banned.

The reason that I have changed my mind is because of the drip drip nature of advertising. It is in place to influence you and its repeated messages are hard to resist. In themselves, a single advert with a questionable stereotype may not be a problem but the fact that they are shown over and over again, often every twenty minutes or so wears the viewer down. Just as water cuts out a cave then advertising alters and reinforces opinions. If it didn’t they would not be bought and paid for.

As a friend of mine once put it to me: ‘If I flick you in the face you may put up with it but if I do it over and over again it is going to have a completely different effect’.

A lot of the problem probably boils down to lazy advertising executives who cannot see beyond their own stereotypes. The producers of the adverts need to take a step back and reflect upon their work. Not every astronaut needs to be a woman and not every pram needs to be pushed by a man but enough do to provide a balance.

Drip, drip, drip.

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