ASA’s announcement to ban gender stereotypes impacts 57% of UK marketers

The results of Shutterstock’s 2017 survey of marketer’s use of imagery, shows that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decision to remove gender stereotypes is having a pronounced effect on ad campaigns.

The survey of 500 UK marketers found that 57% of respondents said they were already being impacted by the ASA’s plan to bring in new guidelines on gender stereotyping in 2018.

35% reported using a larger number of images that featured women in the last 12 months. The data also showed that the number of marketers who think that it’s more important to fairly represent society with their choice of marketing imagery jumped to 51%, up from 30% in 2016.

"The ASA’s crackdown on gender stereotyping within marketing images highlights the diversity problem that exists within marketing is no longer acceptable,” said Robyn Lange, Shutterstock Curator.

“We are pleased that the ASA’s announcement is having an impact on marketers and that the upward trend of using non-stereotypical images of women in marketing campaigns is continuing. Marketing campaigns have a strong visual impact on public life, therefore, marketers need to be more inclusive through their choice of images and ensure that they are representing people in society effectively.”

Driving unfair outcomes

The new ASA standards are not intended to implement a strict ban on all forms of gender stereotypes, such as those showing women cleaning and men doing DIY tasks. The guidelines do aim to get rid of the types of depictions it claims are “likely to be problematic”.

Examples given by the ASA include ads that:

- Show family members creating a mess with a woman being solely responsible for cleaning it up

- Suggest a specific activity is inappropriate for children of one gender as it is stereotypically associated with the opposite gender

- Show a man trying and failing to undertake a relatively simple parental or household task

“Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people,” Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, said.

“While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole."

The Shutterstock research shows that this drive towards increased diversity in marketing imagery is not a purely British phenomenon. 88% of those surveyed in the US and 93% of those in Australia agreed that using more diverse imagery will help a brands reputation.

“Our research shows that globally, marketers are shifting their attitudes and selecting images, primarily, to represent modern day society,” said Lange.

“Marketers are also recognizing that choosing images that are relatable to diverse groups benefits their brand’s reputation. Striking a chord with consumers is no longer about serving them images of perfection, as social media has helped to change how people view images. Consumers prefer images that accurately portray the world around them, as opposed to a perfected version of the world offered by marketers.”

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