A woman struggles to park a car. A man seems unable to change a nappy. Adverts portraying the sexes in a stereotyped way can be very irritating, says Tom Welsh. But it’s one thing to think they’re crass and outdated, quite another to prohibit them. Yet that’s what the UK’s advertising watchdog plans to do. Last week, it declared a ban on any ads containing “gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”.
Come again? The watchdog’s role is to stop advertisers wilfully misleading the public or broadcasting inappropriate content to children, not to “act like philosopher-kings, determining what is good or bad for adults”. Yet that’s what the regulators are increasingly doing. They recently banned a Costa Coffee ad for urging people to eat its bacon rolls for breakfast in place of avocados, and thus encouraged “poor nutritional habits”. Spare us this assault on free speech. Consumers already have perfectly good recourse for sanctioning advertisers who cause “widespread offence”: they can shun their products. (Tom Welsh, The Daily Telegraph 21/12/18).
I rather agree with the writer. Let the consumer decide. The way to deal with gender steriotyping is to laugh at it and refuse to buy the product. Banning it plays into the hands of the right-wing libertarians and big government haters. One of my objections to so many TV ads is that they totally lack creativity. British ads on TV used to be the best in the world, funny and memorable. Now they have become just like American TV ads, crass, simplistic and preachy, oh, and politically correct – there is no harm in depicting a white, elderly couple, or a black elderly couple. But nearly always mixed race? Treat us like grown-ups!