More Creativity, No Stereotypes -- Adland's Got New Rules

Harmful gender stereotypes are banned from June -- and it's the right thing to do, for two reasons. First because we're living in the twenty-first century, but secondly, those terrible cliched ads are just too bad to have to keep inflicting on the public.

The ASA has announced the new rule will come into effect next June but it's likely that most advertisers are already going to start the new year afresh. 

The regulator has provided some useful guidance on what is and isn't acceptable. Basically, stereotyping the woman in a relationship as solely responsible for household chores and depicting a lazy man who doesn't know how to change a nappy are out.

So too are ads that link someone not conforming to the body image stereotype of either gender and linking that to them not doing well in love or life.

Importantly, men should no longer be belittled in an ad for carrying out a "female" task such as cleaning the house, and female characters are no longer allowed to be portrayed as prioritising a tidy home over everything else.

It's pretty simple stuff, to be honest. There's no more shaming a young mum because she hasn't tidied up and so her friend won't go round, until she discovers the power of "brand x" furniture polish, floor cleaner or fragrance spray.

There's also no more of mum having to run around after dad and the lads while they watch the game and when dad does do a chore, you can't portray it as him either being inept because he's male or a bit of soft touch because he's doing women's work.

The ASA has researched the subject and believes these stereotyped images stick with children and could limit what they think their gender is capable of. So all power to their proverbial elbow.

For adland, the big news is that creatives cannot just sit back and be incredibly lazy.

Any person in the pub could script the average ad for an FMCG. A bunch of female friends turn their noses up when they enter Sally's house -- it smells of wet dog -- but fear not, the next time we see them she's sprayed the room with a can of our product and now Sally is popular again. Tim's too busy fixing his motorbike to bother with the baby, so we've made our nappies so simple that even a man can change one, before they go back to being very manly with engine parts and grease while the wife's doing the laundry.

It's cliched, it's overdone -- and it's just plain lazy. Time for creatives to go back to the board and come up with something original. And not a moment too soon.

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