Ads depicting “harmful” gender stereotypes, such as a man refusing to do household chores or a women being less able to park a car, will be banned in the UK from next year when a new rule comes into force.

The UK’s advertising watchdog confirmed at the end of last week that, starting 14th June, all ads – including online and social media – “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.

However, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) emphasised that the new rule does not seek to ban gender stereotypes outright, but instead to “identify specific harms that should be prevented”.

In its published guidance to advertisers, which follows a review conducted by the Advertising Standards Authority, CAP pointed to scenarios that could be deemed “problematic”.

These would include ads featuring a man or woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender – for example, a man struggling to change a nappy.

Other inappropriate ads would be those that seek to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (daring), with a girl’s stereotypical personality (caring).

Similarly, ads aimed at new mothers must not suggest that looking attractive or keeping a home neat and tidy is a priority over other factors, such as their emotional wellbeing.

No doubt advertisers will have to tread carefully next year, but the guidance also makes clear that they will not be stopped from portraying glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people and lifestyles.

Likewise, there is no ban on ads featuring only people of one gender, while campaigns that challenge gender stereotypes and their negative effects are also permitted.

“Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements,” said Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP. “Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don’t, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society.”

Following the ASA review, CAP held a public consultation and said a majority of respondents supported the proposed restrictions. The regulator said it would conduct another 12-month review after the new rule is introduced.

Sourced from CAP, ASA; additional content by WARC staff