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Expert Insights

23 June 2021

Continuing Progress in the Sphere of Inclusive and Non-Discriminatory Advertising

ASA Call for Evidence

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has put out a call for evidence to ascertain whether, and if so the extent to which, racial and ethnic stereotypes featuring in advertisements contribute to real world harms such as racial and ethnic inequality.

The ASA are looking to receive submissions particularly relating to: how race and ethnicity are depicted in advertising, examples of stereotypes and the use of humour relating to race and ethnicity, as well as how racial and ethnic groups with religious affiliations are portrayed in advertising. The evidence can take various forms (both quantitative as well as qualitative) including bespoke research, existing evidence, as well as submissions from the public as to how they have personally been affected by such advertisements, and/or their opinions on such advertisements.

The evidence will help inform the regulator’s approach going forward and follows on from their already robust record in banning advertisements which are likely to cause serious or widespread offence and which pertain to race or ethnicity. An example of this is the swift response provided by the ASA in relation to a 2017 Paddy Power advertisement featuring the boxer Floyd Mayweather. The advertisement which was printed in two newspapers featured a headline stating “Always Bet on Black”, in advance of the Mayweather fight against Conor McGregor in August 2017. The ASA received nine complaints, and ruled that the advert would be “likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race”, instructing Paddy Power to ensure that they avoid causing serious offence on the grounds of race going forward.

The deadline for making a submission to the ASA is 30 June 2021 and any submissions should be addressed to race@asa.org.uk.

CAP and BCAP Consultation Launch

The ASA’s announcement also follows on from the launch of a consultation related to the proposed new rules on harm and protected characteristics by The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).

The rules mandate that marketing communications and advertisements must not contain any elements likely to cause harm. Therefore, broadcasters and those in marketing must consider the potential for advertisements to cause harm to vulnerable people and to the protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010. The protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

The proposed new rules also follow on from Rules 4.1 and 4.2 of the CAP and BCAP Codes respectively, which already mandate that marketers should take care to avoid causing any offence on the grounds of the protected characteristics as listed above. Therefore, significant objections to the new rules are not anticipated.

The consultation will close at 5pm on 24 August 2021 and respondents are encouraged to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the proposals, setting out their reasoning, by writing to harm@cap.org.uk.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned developments point towards an increasing focus on eradicating discrimination in advertising as well as a renewed push to ensure equality. CAP and BCAP have already indicated that they consider themselves to be subject to the public sector equality duty. One of the overarching objectives of this duty is to shift the onus to organisations to prevent discrimination in the first place, rather than only seeking to address this post-factum, as well as to promote equality of opportunity between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Such consultations and the proposed new rules therefore appear to be a positive step in the right direction.

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