New Norms for Advertising



Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” The wisest advertisers know this and know it well. As our societal norms transform and shift towards acceptance of all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious affiliations, and background, advertising continues to evolve in these waves of change. 

Social change is something that never stops presenting new perspectives. In stark contrast, advertising regulation will always remain in pursuit of the same purpose: keeping messages that are false, deceptive, misleading, or unfair out of the marketplace. The premise in which we regulate advertising will always be the cornerstone of effective marketing. It is within the bounds of truthful advertising that we find governing bodies drawing new boundaries for marketers. 

Advertisers are experts at building on the new and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK has given a good reason for a new approach in marketing. Last year, the ASA imposed a ban on advertising that promotes gender stereotypes. Sheila Millar of Keller & Heckman, LLP, joined The Bistro podcast to discuss this ban across the pond and its affects on US advertisers and our self-regulating bodies. 

Sheila notes that using advertising to promote social change is something that is seen more in other countries, and not as much in the US. Conversely, we find that US consumers push advertisers to create messages based on new societal norms. It is more of a natural process here, rather than enforced by the National Advertising Division (NAD). We are already seeing US advertisers choosing to promote gender roles that push the line of what’s “normal.” 

When we step back and look at what’s happened over the last ten years in advertising, we’ve seen a natural evolution in what messages are broadcasted. There has been a boom in advertising showing women serving in what is typically considered a male’s role, such as firefighting or linesman for telephone and electricity companies. Interracial relationships and dads displayed as the stay-at-home parent are some other examples of this movement. All of which have occurred in reaction to what the social landscape is calling for in our country. 

“In the US marketplace, we do value consumer choice, we do value the ability of the marketer to allow market forces to prevail within that backdrop of what’s false, deceptive, misleading, or unfair,” stated Sheila. 

As for the global US advertisers that are affected by the ASA ban, Sheila says they are responsive and engaged in learning the new rules. If they want to be able to operate in the UK, then they need to be willing to flex with whatever new advertising laws are presented. Otherwise, they lose business. 

The bottom line, advertisers want to continue to reach their audience. They will always do what’s necessary to accomplish this. It does require them to “build on the new,” as Socrates put it. 

To get the full scoop from Sheila on the new UK ban as it relates to the US marketplace, listen to the Bistro episode on the BBB National Programs’ podcast website.