The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), part of Australia’s self-regulation system for advertising, has recently released a revised Code of Ethics Practice Note which provides guidance in relation to the use of gender stereotypes in advertising. Complaints under the AANA are adjudicated by the Ad Standards Community Panel, and the revised practice note can be used by the panel in future determinations of complaints of breaches of the AANA Code of Ethics (the Code).

Section 2.1 of the Code prohibits advertising which discriminates against or vilifies a person on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief. The practice note indicates that suggestions in advertising that stereotypical gendered roles are always associated with that gender, are the only options available to that gender and are never performed by another gender, may amount to a breach of the Code.

Examples provided by the AANA include:

  • women being depicted as having sole responsibility for cleaning up a mess made by a family;
  • where activities are depicted as being inappropriate for the other gender due to a stereotype associated with that activity (i.e. only women clean or only men mow the lawn); and
  • depicting men as failing at parental or household tasks, and therefore asserting that such tasks can only be successfully carried out by women.

The timely guidance reminds retailers and others who are advertising branded products to ensure that their advertising does not portray unfair treatment of one gender, or humiliate or invite ridicule of a gender. This is a positive step in ensuring that gender diversity becomes an important consideration in marketing and reflects community standards and expectations in advertising.