As we all know, adverts are created to encourage people to purchase goods, but they also have the power to inspire and to solidify stereotypes. That's why they are regulated carefully. And new regulations put in place in the UK this June have now seen two adverts banned for gender stereotyping. The adverts for Philadelphia cheese and a new Volkswagen car were criticised for their stereotypical depiction of male and females behaviours, and have now been pulled from UK TV screens.
In June 2019, the UK's advertising watchdog put in place new rules regarding harmful gender stereotyping in adverts after reports from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found gender stereotyping had a negative effect on the public. In their Depictions, Perceptions, & Harm report, the ASA stated:
“Gender stereotypes have the potential to cause harm by inviting assumptions about adults and children that might negatively restrict how they see themselves and how others see them. These assumptions can lead to unequal gender outcomes in public and private aspects of people’s lives; outcomes, which are increasingly acknowledged to be detrimental to individuals, the economy and society in general.”
As a result of the new regulation, adverts that portray certain gender stereotypes — including "a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender" or a "contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring)" — are at risk of being banned on UK TV.
The Mondelez Philadelphia cream cheese advert was one of the first two to be banned under these new regulations. In it, two men become distracted by food, so one of them ends up leaving a baby on a restaurant conveyor belt. The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 128 complaints about the advert and it's portrayal of men, the BBC reports. Mondelez, however, claimed the ad illustrated a “positive image of men with a responsible and active role in childcare in modern society.” However, according to ITV, ASA thought the two fathers in the advert came across as "somewhat hapless and inattentive, which resulted in them being unable to care for the children effectively". In addition, they thought the advert, "relied on the stereotype that men were unable to care for children as well as women and implied that the fathers had failed to look after the children properly because of their gender."
The Volkswagen car advert pictured a man and a woman asleep while camping on a cliff, then two astronauts (both male), and then a para-athlete (also male) on the screen. Lastly, the advert pictures a woman sitting on a park bench next to a pram as an eGolf car drives by.
This advert, in contrast to the Philadelphia one, only received three complaints, the BBC reports. However, the ASA ruled it to be against regulation, ITV reports, and released the following statement:
"By juxtaposing images of men in extraordinary environments and carrying out adventurous activities with women who appeared passive or engaged in a stereotypical care-giving role, we considered that the [Volkswagen eGolf] ad directly contrasted stereotypical male and female roles and characteristics in a manner that gave the impression that they were exclusively associated with one gender."
Speaking to the BBC, investigations manager at the ASA, Jess Tye, said: “Ads that specifically contrast male and female stereotypes need to be handled with care. It's about thinking about what the cumulative effect of those gender stereotypes might be."