Discrimination, Minority Groups & Use of Accents
Race & Nationality
Jokes about different races, light-hearted scenarios involving racial or national stereotypes and the use of foreign accents in advertisements have the potential to offend. Extreme care is needed to make sure that such creative treatments will not be perceived as being unkind or hurtful to ethnic minorities, and that they do not reinforce negative racial stereotypes.
A fine line can be drawn, for example, between the use of a foreign accent in a relevant manner and one which is being used to denigrate or mock. While the mere use of a foreign accent is not precluded in advertisements, it needs to be borne in mind that humour in advertisements does not necessarily get round the potential to offend. An example of this was a script featuring a tyrannical boss who was given a German accent. This led to an upheld complaint that the ad unfairly suggested that German people were more likely to be unreasonable or aggressive to others.
Sex & Gender
The Sex Discrimination Acts make it unlawful for advertisements to discriminate solely on the grounds of sex, particularly in employment, education and training.
Charging different prices for the sexes is unlawful. A reference such as “£3 entry for men, only £1 for ladies” is therefore illegal. However, a local authority may be able to make a case for advertising their leisure centre’s female-only swimming session on the basis that the local community includes a significant number of women who cannot participate in mixed gender swim sessions because of their religious beliefs. “Ladies only” nights may be acceptable, provided that men can also attend if they wish.
If an advertiser wishes to mention an age restriction in a recruitment advertisement, the advertiser must be able to provide evidence that a difference of treatment on grounds of age is justifiable. An unjustifiable age limit could constitute unlawful discrimination.
Further guidance on the above and similar issues can be obtained from the Equality & Human Rights Commission.