Apatmil ad

Adverts containing “harmful gender stereotypes” or content which is likely to cause  “serious or widespread offence” are now banned under new rules enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

It means stereotypical roles or scenarios such as a woman cleaning while a man puts his feet up reading the paper will not be allowed.

The rules impact all forms of advertising, from broadcast to print and social media. The ASA said adverts containing harmful gender stereotypes were playing a part in “limiting people’s potential”.

It said gender stereotypes could “restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes”.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us. Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential.”

The ASA highlighted an advert created by baby milk formula company Aptamil in 2017 as an ideal case study. That ad received widespread criticism after it depicted a baby boy growing up to become an engineer, while the baby girl was shown to grow up to be a ballerina.

The regulator said many parents “felt strongly about the gender-based aspirations shown in this advert specifically noting the stereotypical future professions of the boys and girls shown.

“These parents queried why these stereotypes were needed, feeling that they lacked diversity of gender roles and did not represent real life.”