We don’t need to be protected from adverts

The ASA’s banning of ‘gender-stereotypical ads’ is an affront to freedom of speech.



The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has always been a patrician, censorious outfit, happily and arrogantly wiping from the public sphere any advert it judges to be offensive.

But with its policing of adverts that contain ‘gender stereotypes’ it has outdone itself. Its aim is no less than to re-educate the public, to cleanse us of our apparently polluted opinions on gender, by outlawing any ad that shows men or women in a particular light.

The ASA brought in new rules at the start of the year, forbidding the depiction in adverts of any kind of ‘gender-stereotypical’ behaviour. Its aim? To stop ‘limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take’.

Can you think of a more patronising, arrogant approach to images in public life? The ASA really does think that if us gullible plebs see an add showing a useless man or a ditzy women, then we will think to ourselves: ‘Ah, that is all that my sex is capable of. I will never be able to break out of this reality.’

Like all censors throughout history, the ASA thinks we’re all overgrown children whose putty-like minds can be shaped and harmed by a 30-second advert. And so the suits at the ASA must save us by covering our eyes and ears to ensure we never experience anything ‘gender-stereotypical’.

Two ads have now been banned. An ad for Philadelphia cheese has been banned because it showed two dads accidentally letting their kids be snapped up by a conveyor belt in a sushi restaurant. Apparently, this promotes the stereotype that men are ineffective carers.

And an ad for Volkswagen has been banned because it featured men taking part in adventurous activities while the only woman to appear in the ad was sat on a park bench next to a pram.

Everything about this censorious re-education of the apparently dim, easily influenced public is rotten. The idea that ads shape us. The idea that we need saving from our self-doubt by a censorious quango. The idea that it is always wrong to have a pop at a gender on the basis of stereotypes.

From ads to comedy to film, a view of the sexes as being different, and as having their own particular faults, has always existed. And there is nothing wrong with it whatsoever. People are not so dumb that they design their entire lives around what culture creators say about gender.

The ASA is engaging in outright, Mary Whitehouse-style censorship. In fact, this new censorship is worse than anything Whitehouse sought to foist on the nation. At least she only wanted to protect the public from naked bodies or godless drama – the new censors think we need protection from absolutely everything, whether it’s witty ads, off-colour jokes, or offensive movies.

The ASA needs to be scrapped.

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Garreth Byrne

19th August 2019 at 8:31 am

Sometimes it might be a good idea to defy a massive advertising campaign for high-end branded goods by going out and buying Brand X.

Carolyn Monaghan

14th August 2019 at 8:28 pm

Is anyone else bothered by those ads that tell us a) that cancer doesn’t care about us (whoever thought it did?) and b) that arthritis is stealing from someone we know and that’s why the actors in the ad are versus arthritis. Why do we have to be made to hate a nasty ‘evil’ disease before we could want to help people with the disease? There is an issue about the way marketing companies (and, lets face it, everyone else) relate to the general public.

Danny Rees

14th August 2019 at 4:42 pm

I find the continued portrayal of violence against men by women on Television as funny and deserved far more worrying than adverts which pander to “gender stereotypes”.

Ditto the portrayal of men and fathers in soap operas as useless abusive scumbags.

michael savell

14th August 2019 at 4:10 pm

I don’t know.If you have adverts on about 20 times a day telling you how useless men are it can be irksome in the least.For the past 20 years men’s rights groups have railed against a lot of ads and quite a few have been shelved.Go and check them out on Google and see what you think.For years Feminism has run amuck proclaiming through ads how useless men are while building up female egos.A bit of a laugh is one thing but protracted sexism is another.

Danny Rees

14th August 2019 at 4:44 pm

Those men’s rights groups have been wasting their time going after silly ads which show men as useless and should tackle tv dramas which portrays men and fathers are evil rapists and violent women abusers and shows violence against men as funny or deserved.

Warren Alexander

14th August 2019 at 3:03 pm

The ASA is a non-statutory body and and has no legislative powers. If the media and advertisers have the courage and imagination to tell the ASA to go fuck themselves then we might be saved from the ASA’s nannying and social engineering.

Jerry Owen

14th August 2019 at 3:48 pm

Hear hear !

Ven Oods

15th August 2019 at 7:14 pm

“the courage and imagination to tell the ASA to go fuck themselves”

I suppose if the ASA types could do that, they’d be impossible to genders stereotype.

Ven Oods

15th August 2019 at 7:17 pm

*gender-stereotype* (bloody autocorrect)

gershwin gentile

14th August 2019 at 2:37 pm

“Like all censors throughout history, the ASA thinks we’re all overgrown children whose putty-like minds can be shaped and harmed by a 30-second advert”

Well, advertising/marketing companies do spend a lot of money on this stuff. There just MIGHT be something in it. Imagine if you stuck a 6 month old in front of cable telly for 2 and a half years. What kind of mind would it have?

Jerry Owen

14th August 2019 at 3:51 pm

Interesting point Gershwin. Just imagine if the BBC pushed some bullshit about AGW all the time . We might get morons crying in the streets believing the end of the Earth is nigh.. 11 years to be precise… Oh wait a minute !

Danny Rees

14th August 2019 at 4:42 pm

If you were to stick them in front of the TV without any other influences then of course there might be a negative impact.

Your comment is just so obvious as to be pointless.

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