ASA's new rule banning harmful gender stereotypes in ads has come into force.
The new rule in the Advertising Codes, which will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media (including online and social media), states:
[Advertisements] must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
This change follows a review of gender stereotyping in ads by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Following the review, CAP (the rulle writing arm of ASA) consulted publicly on specific proposals to ban harmful gender stereotypes in
ads, underpinned by the evidence collected by the ASA. The proposed restrictions were supported by a majority of respondents.
The evidence does not show that the use of gender stereotypes is always problematic and the new rule does not seek to ban gender stereotypes outright, but to identify specific harms that should be prevented.
The advertising industry has had six months to get ready for the new rule. The ASA will now deal with any complaints it receives on a case-by-case basis and will assess each ad by looking at the content and context to determine if the new rule
has been broken.
Scenarios in ads likely to be problematic under the new rule include:
An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man's inability to change nappies; a woman's inability to park a car.
Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their
romantic or social lives.
An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy's stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl's stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care.
An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically female roles or tasks.
The rule and its supporting guidance doesn't stop ads from featuring:
A woman doing the shopping or a man doing DIY.
Glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles.
One gender only, including in ads for products developed for and aimed at one gender.
Gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their negative effects.
CAP will carry out a review of the new rule in 12 months' time to make sure it's meeting its objective to prevent harmful gender stereotypes.
An ad for Strasse Garage, seen in the 911 and Porsche World Magazine on 28 February 2019 featured an image of the lower half of a woman's body wearing a black fitted mini-dress and brightly coloured high heels positioned underneath a car,
surrounded by car tools and a handbag. Text positioned across the image stated ATTRACTIVE SERVICING.
A complainant who believed the ad was degrading and sexist towards women, challenged whether the ad was offensive and irresponsible.
Strasse Ltd said that the model in the ad was fully clothed in leggings and a tunic and was empowered by the addition of power tools. The attractive servicing referred to in the ad was in relation to their attractive prices versus those of
They did not consider that the ad contained anything that was likely to cause widespread offence on the grounds of sex. They confirmed that they had not received any complaints about the ad.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA noted the model's head was obscured and the text ATTRACTIVE SERVICING appeared across her crotch and legs. The model's waist and lower half appeared from beneath the car, with her legs placed apart. Because of the positioning of her bent
leg, her skirt was pulled up to reveal her upper thigh and crotch, albeit in opaque black tights. We considered that because the model's face was not shown, the lower half of her body became the main focus of the ad.
We considered the phrase attractive servicing would be understood to be a double entendre, implying the woman featured in the ad was the attractive part of the servicing, and considered this was likely to be viewed as demeaning towards women. We
considered that although the image was only mildly sexual in nature, when combined with the phrase attractive servicing it had the effect of objectifying women by using a woman's physical features to draw attention to the ad.
We concluded the ad was not sexually explicit, but by using a suggestive image that bore no relevance to the advertised product, the ad objectified women and was likely to cause serious offence to some people.
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Strasse (UK) Ltd to ensure their advertising was socially responsible and did not cause serious offence by objectifying women.
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) chairman, David Currie, said the group was in talks with platforms such as Facebook and Google, adding that they could be more open about their systems for handling and monitoring irresponsible and
The advert censor is also exploring the potential for monitoring exposure to online ads for junk food and alcohol when users are logged-in environments such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. He said:
We need to find a way of working closer with the online platforms on this issue, said Lord Currie. We've had conversations with them. We've got to work closely with them. They have their own systems of taking down or blocking inappropriate ads.
It's not as transparent as we'd like. We'd like to understand it much better. I think probably they could be a bit more open about how they do it, he added. I think, given all the concerns that parents and others have, they recognise that they
need to take action.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) Annual Report 2018 have been published revealing that more ads have been censored or banned than ever befor. And, in a year when online cases* outnumbered
television cases by almost 3:1, it also highlights the new, proactive and innovative projects ASA and CAP are undertaking as part of a new five year strategy focused on having more impact online.
In a record year, the ASA resolved 33,727complaints about 25,259 ads Of those, 16,059 complaints (41% increase on 2017) were about 14,257 online ads (38% increase) 10,773 complaints (14% increase) were about 5,748 TV ads (23% increase) Resolved
27,014 own-initiative compliance cases Overall, the ASA secured the amendment or withdrawal of 10,850 ads (a 53% increase on 2017)
The report also reviews the actions that have been taken to tackle consumer harms and to protect the financially vulnerable; including projects on:
Secondary Tickets -- rulings against the main operators in the secondary ticketing sector for misleading pricing claims on their websites, including enforcement action against viagogo (facing the prospect of prosecution, viagogo came into
compliance with our rules) Parcel Delivery Charges -- Enforcement Notice issued to retailers across the UK making clear that a definitive claim about UK delivery should apply wherever a consumer lives, including Northern Ireland and northern
Scotland Superimposed text - research published into whether TV viewers can read and understand superimposed text (supers). Subsequently, CAP toughened the standards we require for supers, while the ASA announced it will take a stricter approach
to ensure qualifications are presented clearly.
The ASA has already taken its first steps to strengthen further the regulation of online advertising through its recent use of new monitoring technology in the form of child avatars - online profiles which simulate children's browsing activity -
to identify ads that children see online. This has enabled the ASA to take swift action to ban ads from five gambling operators which were served to child avatars on children's websites. The ASA is planning to extend this avatar work, as well as
to explore how other new technologies can help it better protect the public.
The ASA don't seem to have broken out statistics that the Melon Farmers would like to know:
What proportion of the ASA's workload is enforcing political correctness?
What proportion of the ASA's workload is nannyism telling us for example what food is 'good' for us?
What proportion of the ASA's workload is treating people as simpletons that are likely to become alcoholics just because an attractive 21 year old appeared in an ad
A paid-for message from William Hill seen on the dating app Tinder, on 11 March 2019, stated:
Stuck in the friend zone? You won't be for much longer if you use this Cheltenham free bet offer. Join William Hill with code W40 and bet £10 on any Cheltenham race to get 4 X £10 free bets. T&Cs apply. This was followed by a link to
download the William Hill app. Issue
A complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code by linking gambling to sexual success.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The CAP Code required that marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible and that they must not link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness. The ASA acknowledged that William Hill had removed the ad.
However, we considered that the text Stuck in the friend zone? You won't be for much longer if you use this Cheltenham free bet offer suggested that those who gambled would be more likely to develop a friendship into a sexual relationship and
therefore linked gambling with sexual success. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told William Hill to ensure they did not link gambling to sexual success.
A banner ad for Monopoly Casino, seen 7 February 2019 on the Mirror Online website, featured an image of the character Mr Monopoly and text which stated Monopoly Casino, SUPER MONOPOLY MONEY and PLAY NOW.
A complainant challenged whether the ad was likely to be of particular appeal to children.
Entertaining Play t/a Monopoly Casino did not believe the Mr Monopoly character was of particular appeal to children. They outlined that the character was depicted as shown since the inception of the Monopoly brand, with the character shown in
traditional, adult attire. Monopoly Casino said that the character did not possess exaggerated features and did not mimic any style of cartoon character seen in current children's programming. The characterisation of Mr Monopoly as a
traditionally dressed older gentleman was a conscious decision in recognition of the character's universal appeal. In relation to the ad's background, Monopoly Casino said that the colours used were not garish or overly vibrant and did not draw
inspiration from youth culture.
Monopoly Casino highlighted that they had also taken actions to target the ad only to those aged over 18 years of age.
The Mirror Online also said that age targeting could be applied to the ad so that it was not targeted at children. They did not believe the ad had appeal to children and they said that the ad included a label which stated 18+.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The CAP Code stated that gambling ads must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. Gambling ads could not therefore appeal more to under-18s than they
did to over-18s.
The ASA understood that Monopoly Casino had taken steps to target the ad only at those over 18 years of age. However, the steps taken could not ensure that under-18s were not exposed to the ad and we therefore considered whether it complied with
the Code's requirement that gambling ads must not be of particular appeal to children.
The ad's branding referenced a regular edition of the board-game Monopoly, and included two red and white Monopoly logos. We considered that Monopoly was a family game generally played by or with children, and that under-18s would therefore
recognise and find the ad's references to it appealing. In addition, the ad featured a prominent image of the Mr Monopoly character which had exaggerated features reminiscent of a children's cartoon, which meant the image would also be appealing
to under-18s. Taking account of the ad as a whole, we considered that the use of the Monopoly logo and the depiction of the Mr Monopoly character meant that the ad was likely to appeal more to under-18s than to over-18s. We therefore concluded
that the ad was of particular appeal to under-18s and breached the Code.
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Entertaining Play Ltd t/a Monopoly Casino to ensure their ads for gambling products did not have particular appeal to those under18 years of age.
The ASA has banned an advert for the extra security provided by VPNs in response to 9 complainants objecting to the characterisation of the internet as dangerous place full of hackers and fraudsters.
It is not as if the claims are 'offensive' or anything, so these are unlikely to be complaints from the public. One has to suspect that the authorities really don't want people to get interested in VPNs lest they evade website blocking and
Anyway the ASA writes:
A TV ad for NordVPN seen on 9 January 2019. The ad began with a man walking down a train cubicle. Text on screen appeared that stated Name: John Smith. A man's voice then said, Look it's me, giving out my credit card details. The ad then showed
the man handing his credit card to passengers on the train. On-screen text appeared that stated Credit card number 1143 0569 7821 9901. CVV/CVC 987. The ad then cut to another shot of the man showing other passengers his phone. The man's voice
said, Sharing my password with strangers. On-screen text stated Password: John123. The ad then cut to a shot of the man taking a photo of himself with a computer generated character. The man's voice said, Being hackers' best friend. The ad then
cut to the man looking down the corridor of the carriage as three computer generated characters walked towards him. The man's voice then said, Your sensitive online data is just as open to snoopers on public WiFi. The man then pulled out his
phone, which showed his security details again. The voice said, Connect to Nord VPN. Help protect your privacy and enjoy advanced internet security. On-screen text stated Advanced security. 6 devices. 30-day money-back guarantee. The ad cut to
show the computer generated characters disappear as the man appeared to use the NordVPN app on his phone.
Nine complainants challenged whether the ad exaggerated the extent to which users were at risk from data theft without their service. Response
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
The ASA noted that the ad showed the character John Smith walking around a train, handing out personal information including credit card details and passwords to passengers while he stated he was being hackers' best friend. The character then
said Your sensitive online data is just as open to snoopers on public WiFi. Based on that, we considered consumers would understand that use of public WiFi connections would make them immediately vulnerable to hacking or phishing attempts by
virtue of using those connections. Therefore NordVPN needed to demonstrate that using public networks posed such a risk.
With regards to the software, we acknowledged that the product was designed to add an additional layer of encryption beyond the HTTPS encryption which already existed on public WiFi connections to provide greater security from threats on public
We noted the explanations from NordVPN and Clearcast that public networks presented security risks and that the use of HTTPS encryption, which was noticeable from the use of a padlock in a user's internet browser, did not in all circumstances
indicate that a connection was completely secure.
However, while we acknowledged that such data threats could exist we considered the overwhelming impression created by the ad was that public networks were inherently insecure and that access to them was akin to handing out security information
voluntarily. As acknowledged by NordVPN, we understood that HTTPS did provide encryption to protect user data so therefore, while data threats existed, data was protected by a significant layer of security.
Therefore, because the ad created the impression that users were at significant risk from data theft, when that was not the case, we concluded it was misleading.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Tefincom SA t/a NordVPN not to exaggerate the risk of data theft without using their service.