The death of George Floyd in 2020 and the global, high-profile reaction which followed brought to the forefront discussions about racial inequality. From its perspective as the UK advertising regulator, the ASA has been reflecting on what can be done to address factors that cause racial and ethnic minorities to experience disproportionately adverse outcomes in different aspects of their lives. You can read more about this on our blog post.

The ASA has a strong record of banning ads that are likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of race and ethnicity. As a proactive regulator, the ASA must ensure that we are aware of how societal values and prevailing standards are constantly evolving and what this means for our interpretation and application of the advertising rules. 

We are now putting out a call for evidence to help us establish whether and, if so, to what extent racial and ethnic stereotypes, when featured in ads, may contribute to real world harms, for example, unequal outcomes for different racial and ethnic groups. In the context of the call for evidence, we’re particularly interested in the following areas:

  • The depiction of race and ethnicity in advertising, including examples of racial and ethnic stereotypes.
  • How the issues of objectification and sexualisation relate to race or ethnicity in advertising.
  • How particular cultures, or racial and ethnic groups with particular religious affiliations, are portrayed in advertising.
  • The use of humour relating to race or ethnicity in advertising.

We recognise that evidence can take many forms. Stakeholders may choose to submit existing evidence, secondary analysis, bespoke research or examples. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence would be useful to us.

We are also interested in hearing from members of the public about how this type of advertising has affected them and we would welcome your own personal observations or views.

Submissions can be sent to us at [email protected]. We are requesting submissions by 14 July 2021 to help inform our work. All submissions will be reviewed and considered alongside our other work such as the public research which is currently underway. After this date, we will still be happy to receive evidence and consider it, but we may not be able to include it in the project.

The project will report on whether we’re getting it right on racial and ethnic stereotyping in ads. If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited, we will set out the best way to achieve it. 

“We’re alive to the need to help prevent harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes in advertising, which could contribute to real-life racial and ethnic inequalities. We want to engage with a diverse range of stakeholders to gather evidence on the effects of racial and ethnic stereotyping in advertising, and this call for evidence will help us do to that. I look forward to the response from stakeholders, which will help to shape this important work”.

Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker

All submissions will be treated as non-confidential unless you state that all or a specified part of your response is confidential and should not be disclosed. If you reply by email, unless you include a specific statement to the contrary in your response, the presumption of non-confidentiality will override any confidentiality disclaimer generated by your organisation’s IT system. Confidential responses will be included in any statistical summary of numbers of comments received.

We may wish to contact you again in the future. If you would be willing to discuss issues about racial and ethnic stereotyping in ads at a future event, please email [email protected] to give your consent for us to contact you.

If you would like to hear from us about our work, you may wish to opt in to receive future communications and newsletters here.

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