International Men’s Day 2020

Since 14 June 2019, our rules have prohibited ads from featuring harmful gender stereotypes, including stereotypes about men. Last week was International Men’s Day and that’s as good as reason as any to consider the ways in which the Ad Rules seek to make advertising and marketing fair to boys and men. 

So what can marketers do to make sure they don’t fall foul of the CAP Code?

Stereotypical roles and characteristics

The ASA has investigated and upheld complaints about ads on the basis that those ads feature gender stereotypes that are harmful.  Gender stereotypes include occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender; e.g. women being primarily responsible for childcare and men being responsible for financial security. They can also include characteristics or behaviours usually associated with a specific gender, such as sensitivity or rationality.

Just because your ad includes some gender stereotypical roles does not mean that they will breach the CAP Code. In order to breach the Code, the ad must use the gender stereotype in a harmful way.

The ASA upheld complaints about an ad for a food product following complaints that it depicted fathers as being incapable of childcare, a role which is stereotypically attributed to women. The ASA considered the ad relied on the stereotype that men were unable to care for children as well as women, and implied that the fathers had failed to look after the children properly because of their gender.

But we’re only joking

It’s important to remember that, a stereotype presented in a humorous way can still cause harm. In the ruling referred to above, the ASA concluded that the humour was derived explicitly from the use of a harmful stereotype and was therefore problematic.

Male beauty and body image         

With the male beauty market consistently on the rise, including in terms of advertising spend, it’s certainly an emerging area – but, from taking care not to exploit insecurities to not advertising ‘Brotox’ to the public, the same rules and principles relevant to all cosmetics ads apply.  

When talking about “objectification” or societal pressure in the beauty industry, you might immediately imagine an Instagram-ready female influencer – however, the societal pressure on men to look a certain way is perhaps more intense than it’s ever been.  Just like those aimed at women, it’s vital that marketers ensure that all ads for beauty treatments or surgeries aimed at men do not take advantage of or exploit insecurities.  

Furthermore, marketers should be wary of trivialising surgery or invasive cosmetic intervention in their advertising – see our guidance on social responsibility in terms of cosmetic treatments for more on this.  

Information and resources

Although there are fewer complaints, and therefore ASA precedent about body image or gender stereotypes about men, marketers should keep in mind our guidance on harmful gender stereotypes when featuring male stereotypes in ads.   

For an overview and links to other relevant resources see here, and for bespoke advice feel free to contact our Copy Advice team.

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