Whether it be housewives left to clear up the mess of their families, fathers freaking out when mummy leaves them holding the baby, or children picking “boys” or “girls” toys, the way men and women are portrayed in advertising can often lead to complaints.
There has been little chance to take such ads to task, as there are currently no rules on the portrayal of gender stereotypes through advertising.
But this is set to change as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) plans to bring in new guidelines from 2018, cracking down on ads that mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes or that reinforce gender roles.
Here are some examples from the ASA of adverts it has received complaints about over gender stereotypes – but not taken action on.
Aptamil babies of the future
This advert from the formula company shows three babies exploring as youngsters but growing into their careers.
The two baby boys have futures as engineers and mountain climbers.
However, the baby girl as depicted as growing into a ballerina.
A spokesman from the ASA said complainants considered the ad portrayed negative gender stereotypes, but he added: “We did not find grounds for a formal investigation.”
Gap scholars and butterflies
Clothing giant Gap attracted complaints after releasing adverts for its children’s clothes.
The boy is portrayed as a “little scholar” with an Albert Einstein T-shirt, promising that his “future starts here”.
However, the girl has the title of “social butterfly”, wearing glittery cat ears and clothes that will be “the talk of the playground”.
The ASA said Gap took steps to take the ad down so it “did not have grounds for further investigation”.
A TV advert from fast food chain KFC, depicting two men arguing about the size of their new TVs, attracted complaints because of its treatment of anxiety disorders.
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After one character boasts how much bigger his TV is – because he is “a man” – he continues to mock the second man for owning scented candles.
“You know those candles help with my anxiety,” he replies. “You’re a monster.”
The majority of complainants said the advert implied that it was acceptable to make fun of a mental health problem.
A number also objected because it equated anxiety with a lack of masculinity, and helped perpetuate the damaging view that men shouldn’t admit to mental health concerns.
The ASA said it did not consider the advert to cause serious or widespread offence on either point, so no further action was taken.
I Am The Agent ‘for the missus’
This estate agent advert, which appeared on the London Underground, attracted complaints over gender stereotypes.
Complainants said it made men appear to be in charge of the finances, while making out it was his role to buy “the missus a new kitchen”.
The ASA spokesman said: “Whilst we fully appreciated the concerns that were raised, we considered this specific ad described one person’s personal situation and what that one person decided to do with the money saved.
“We acknowledged that some readers may have found the wording in the ad to be distasteful, and the overall premise somewhat old-fashioned.
“However, we did not consider that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the basis suggested and we therefore didn’t take further action on this occasion.”