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New advertising Code of Ethics addresses harmful gender stereotypes and unnecessary sexualisation in advertising

Social & Digital

New advertising Code of Ethics addresses harmful gender stereotypes and unnecessary sexualisation in advertising


The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has announced a new advertising Code of Ethics which will take effect from today. 

The new code explicitly addresses gender portrayals and sexualisation in Australian advertising. It prohibits the focus on body parts and the use of overtly sexual images in outdoor advertising or shop front windows or where the image is not relevant to the product or service being advertised.

The new code has additional restrictions for advertising containing violent or menacing content. It also cracks down on influencers to disclose commercial relationships in a clear, upfront manner that can be easily understood.

Dr Lauren Gurrieri, senior lecturer in Marketing at RMIT University, says advertising plays a powerful role in shaping social and cultural norms within society: “These, in turn, can contribute to a variety of social harms, including impacts on children’s development and gender roles, impacts on adult gender roles, impacts on intimate relationships, impacts on body image and mental health and impacts on attitudes towards women and violence against women.”

“The revised Code signals a step in the right direction to address sexism and promote progressive gender representations in advertising that do not confine women and men to traditional or limited roles but instead show them as authentic and multidimensional.” 

In 2019 the AANA conducted the review to ensure that advertising in Australia is “legal, honest and reflects prevailing community standards”. Along with public consultation, the review included commissioning research from Ipsos to gage what the Australian public thinks when it comes to issues like gender stereotypes, sexual appeal, nudity and violence in advertising.

According to AANA, the Ipsos research revealed that:

  • The majority of the community see banning negative or damaging gender stereotypes as a positive step towards modernising advertising standards and reducing outdated gender imagery, reducing discrimination. Female stereotypes such as the ‘dumb blonde’ are seen to be the most damaging, alongside the ‘incompetent dad’.
  • Australians believe that advertising has become more and more sexually explicit and this type of advertising is seen as particularly damaging to young girls who see this type of hypersexualised advertising and take it on as an aspirational standard of beauty. The de-sexualisation of advertising is seen as a step in the right direction, especially in relation to its use for unrelated products. The majority of Australians surveyed prefer to support companies that do not objectify women.
  • The community supports tighter restrictions around the advertising of violent video games and horror/thriller movies where children form part of the audience.

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash.

Jasmine Giuliani

Jasmine Giuliani was the Editor of Marketing Mag from March 2020 to September 2021.

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