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Advertising gender rules ‘don’t go far enough’

Published: 17 July 2019 at 15:00

gender equality symbol

New book looks at psychology of gender and advertising after new ASA guidelines

New Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) rules may not be enough to prevent more subtle manifestations of gender stereotypes in advertisements, according to a new book by an Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) academic.

In Advertising, Gender and Society – a psychological perspective, Dr Magdalena Zawisza-Riley examines the portrayal of gender in advertising, its effectiveness and effect on audiences and the ways in which audiences, advertisers and policy makers can mitigate the potential harm of gendered advertising.

Her own research contributed to the new ASA rules, which came into effect last month, following a report into gender stereotyping in advertisements by the ASA in 2017. The report concluded that such ad content may have a negative effect on consumers, and new, tougher, rules state that advertisements must not contain gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.

Advertising, Gender and Society discusses these new rules, builds on advances in social psychology and new methodologies, and offers novel psychological insights. It revisits the representation of gender in advertising, challenges myths about its effectiveness and exposes its effects on audiences.

Dr Zawisza-Riley, Associate Professor/Reader in Consumer and Gender Psychology at ARU
, said:

“While the new ASA rules are certainly a step in the right direction they will not detect more subtle gender content, which is not deemed offensive and yet may still be harmful. Hence, harm, rather than offence, should be the key factor in ASA’s decisions.

“There is a need to monitor the volume of gender stereotypes in ads and to emphasise that progressive ads are not only socially responsible, but can actually be very profitable as evidenced by my research and reflected by the resounding success of campaigns such as Dove Real Beauty. 

“I believe this book will be relevant as long as gender inequality and stereotypical representation of gender in advertising exist. According to the World Economic Forum, gender gap in wages will not cease for another 202 years. I hope that audiences will find this book useful in introducing the changes needed earlier than this.”

Advertising, Gender and Society is published by Routledge Taylor & Francis Group and is available now.