Ads which perpetuate sexist stereotypes - such as a woman cleaning the house while her male partner reads the paper with his feet up, or a hapless dad cack-handedly struggling to change a nappy - will be banned from next year, under new ASA rules.

Adverts 'must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence' states the new rule, which comes into force on 14 June 2019 and will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media, including online and social media.

It follows a review of gender stereotyping in ads by the ASA - prompted in part by the public outcry over Protein World's infamous Are You Beach Body Ready? ads - that found evidence suggesting that harmful stereotypes can 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.


Asda's 2012 Christmas ad, Mum, was one of the ads examined in the ASA review


For advertisers worried about landing themselves in a regulatory quagmire come June, CAP, the ASA's sister organisation, has published a list of example scenarios which might infringe the rule. They include: 

  • 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 ban won't, apparently, apply to ads that feature attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or lifestyles; only one gender; or that mock gender stereotypes in order to bring about social change.
Protein World's infamous Are You Beach Body Ready? ad prompted the review which led to the new rule
“The evidence we published last year showed that harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society," stated Ella Smillie, gender stereotyping project lead, Committees of Advertising Practice. "They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.  We’ve spent time consulting on new standards to make sure they target specifically those images and portrayals we found cause harm.”