Monday 17 December 2018 10:40 am

Banning harmful gender stereotypes from adverts should be applauded

Follow Holly Justice
The UK’s advertising watchdog has called time on harmful gender stereotyping. From June 2019, all ads featuring outdated gender stereotypes that are deemed to cause harm or widespread offence are to be banned.

This is fantastic news. The negative use of gender stereotyping for the promotion of products and services was especially prominent in my youth – those infamous Lynx ads which portrayed women as prizes for men and Iceland’s “that’s why mums go to Iceland” strapline are both permanently etched in my brain.

Today, these ads might be considered misplaced, but at the time they were accepted and applauded.

What’s scary is that they will have affected not only my own perceptions, but those of my peers too. It is, therefore, absolutely right for the Committees of Advertising Practice to have enforced this change. We cannot have the next generation growing up surrounded by misleading and dangerous gender stereotyping.

This isn’t just a case of the PC police trying to win a power struggle. It’s an important issue that’s having a huge impact on society.

With the national median gender pay gap currently sitting at an eyewatering 18.4 per cent, and men accounting for three quarters of all UK suicides in 2017, adverts that play on gender stereotypes entrench some serious societal issues that we need to overcome.

This includes adverts belittling men for showing emotion or doing jobs traditionally performed by women, and those denigrating a woman’s role in the home.

Although I welcome this new ruling, I’m gobsmacked by the number of modern-day brands that haven’t yet woken up to new realities but maintain an old-fashioned stance on gender.

The fact that the industry watchdog needs to intervene is proof of the toxic attitudes towards gender still shared by some brands.

Brands have a moral obligation not only to promote positive gender values, but also to win the hearts and minds of consumers today.

All brands must get real and ensure that their marketing strategy and ad campaigns are aligned with contemporary values. Failure to do so will, I have no doubt, lead to them being cast by the wayside.

Building affinity with target consumers means that brands must shed themselves of outdated values and views. That’s what excites me about the future of the industry: the rules have changed, creating new opportunities for creativity and prospective new customers to boot.

Here’s to letting the most forward-thinking brands win.