Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.


On 14 December 2018, CAP announced the introduction of a new rule on gender stereotyping in ads, and on 14 June 2019, Code rules 4.9 (CAP Code) and 4.14 (BCAP Code) were introduced. These rules state that ads ‘must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence’ This followed a review of gender stereotyping in ads by the ASA.

The rule is supported by additional guidance: Advertising Guidance on depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence.

The advice below reflects that guidance and will be updated with rulings when they are published.

Code rules 4.8 (CAP Code) and 4.14 (BCAP Code) state that ads must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence. The accompanying guidance: Advertising Guidance on depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence includes five subsections, with scenarios, which support the rule:

Gender stereotypical roles and characteristics

Ads may feature people undertaking stereotypical roles or characteristics but advertisers should take care to ensure that ads do not suggest that stereotypical roles or characteristics are:

  • always uniquely associated with one gender;
  • the only options available to one gender;
  • never carried out or displayed by another gender.

Pressure to conform to an idealized gender stereotypical body shape or physical features

Ads may feature glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people but they should take care to avoid suggesting that an individual’s happiness or emotional wellbeing should depend on conforming to an idealised gender-stereotypical body shape or physical features.

Ads aimed at or featuring children

Ads can be targeted at and feature a specific gender but should take care not to explicitly convey that a particular children’s product, pursuit, activity, including choice of play or career, is inappropriate for one or another gender.

Featuring potentially vulnerable people

Ads should be sensitive to the emotional and physical well-being of vulnerable groups of people who may be under pressure to conform to particular gender stereotypes.

Featuring people who don’t conform to a gender stereotype

Ads should avoid mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes, including in a context that is intended to be humorous.

See also:

Social responsibility: body image

Offence: sexualisation and objectification

Offence: use of stereotypes

Offence: sexual orientation and gender identity


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