Nursery Blog

Which side are you on?

Debate rages at The Nursery as it does in the wider advertising community at the new directive issued by the ASA about gender stereotyping.

The team at The Nursery always give a point of view - in this case Lucy and David offer two different ones for the price of one. Which side of the fence are you on?

Lucy - It's 2017

So the ASA has stepped in to the hot topic of gender representation and decreed that advertising should not perpetuate gender stereotypes. Quite right too.

And significant that the ASA has introduced this ruling in reaction to complaints it has already received.

We can't deny that advertising plays a key role in shaping the way we view ourselves and the way we view society. Advertising has often taken the lead, as it did with restricting portrayals of smoking long before it became illegal in public.

It is particularly important that positive role models are seen in advertising to help young children see that gender is not a constraint. We all know that children are hugely receptive to the ads they see, whether or not it is targeted at them. And evidence shows that they form their views about what girls should do, or boys should behave from the age of 7 or 8. We should present them with a positive and inclusive view of the future.

Arguments against this will claim that it is unnecessarily restrictive, but I would argue that lazy stereotyping is just as restrictive. What creative team would not welcome the opportunity to strike out and do something a bit different? And they should be aware that society is changing rapidly – turns out men do know how to do the shopping or feed the baby. Come on guys it’s 2017.

David - It's natural selection

The ASA has had a really important role to play in a range of issues like helping limit the levels of smoking and alcohol abuse.

But I really struggle with the fundamental question of whether it is advertisers’ roles to lead society.

If I were an advertiser, rather than someone who makes a living trying to understand what on earth advertisers are thinking, my focus would be on trying to make the best, most resonant advertising that is relevant and motivating for my target audience.

No brand sets out to be disliked or vilified. Brand owners are intensely aware of the flak that will come their way now if they are perceived as dinosaurs in terms of their attitudes or portrayal of gender or ethnic stereotypes.

But whatever happened to natural selection – good brands who make the effort to understand their consumers and create great advertising that strikes a chord, deserve to succeed. Lazy brands that default to clumsy stereotypes deserve to fail – not because they are sexist but because they are lazy. Perhaps the ASA should go the whole hog and make adverts themselves that they can distribute to brand owners. Then we can guarantee we won’t offend anyone except people who love the creative brilliance of the UK advertising industry.