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Brief Published: 23 Aug 2019

Gender Stereotyping Still a Problem for Advertisers

Philadelphia ad banned for gender stereotyping

In June 2019, new rules from the UK's Advertising Standards Authority came into force, banning ads that are seen to enforce gender stereotypes. This month, ads by carmaker Volkswagen and cream cheese brand Philadelphia became the first to fall foul of the ruling.

VW's spot for its electric Golf range and Philadelphia's ad showing two inattentive fathers misplacing their babies were both banned after consumer complaints. "Ads that specifically contrast male and female stereotypes need to be handled with care," Jess Tye, investigations manager at the Advertising Standards Authority, told the BBC. "It's about thinking about what the cumulative effect of those gender stereotypes might be."

Brands need to think harder about this "cumulative effect", focusing on how their campaigns exist within the cultural conversation, rather than simply viewing them as isolated pieces of content. See No Offence: Speak the Language of Now for more on understanding the nuances of current cultural sensibilities.

There remains a disconnect between the way brands perceive their progress in this area, and the continued dissatisfaction of consumers. Recent research from Kantar lays this out starkly: 91% of marketers think they portray women positively, while 45% of audiences disagree. "The views of the ad industry and consumers on how far things have improved don't match up," says Hannah Walley, Kantar Millward Brown's joint head of media and digital. "Society has evolved – but the industry is lagging in its response."

According to Kantar, the brand value of gender-balanced brands is on average $20.6bn, compared with $16.1bn for female-skewed brands and $11.5bn among male-skewed brands.

See The Consumer of 2035: Inclusivity Outlook, for more on this topic.