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Seeing is Believing paves the way for transforming Australian advertising

November 2020

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Seeing is Believing: a national framework for championing gender equality in advertising

Consumers – especially women – have been rejecting sexist ads for decades. Making complaints, boycotting brands and even vandalising sexist billboards.

Yet research shows advertising portrayals of women – and men – are becoming more sexualised over time. And while gender stereotypes may have become less obvious, subtle stereotypes and gendered cues are perhaps even more insidious.

Advertising portrayals have a powerful influence on society’s ideas about what it means to be a woman and how women are valued. And research shows they contribute to attitudes that drive violence against women.

In 2018, the Victorian Government funded Women’s Health Victoria to lead an Australian-first collaborative project to tackle sexism in advertising. Women’s Health Victoria knew what was needed was solid evidence about the problem and a plan to engage the ad industry, regulators, governments and consumers in driving change.

“We knew that if we wanted to create a more gender equitable society and end violence against women, we needed to work with the advertising industry to change the way women are portrayed in ads.”

– Dianne Hill, Women’s Health Victoria CEO

Women’s Health Victoria worked closely with a reference group from the advertising industry to develop a national strategic framework for ending gender inequality in ads… and in adland.

Drawing on contemporary Australian and international research about the impacts of sexist advertising, consumer attitudes and what works to end sexist advertising, Seeing is Believing: a national framework for championing gender equality in advertising shows how the ad industry, regulators and governments, and consumers need to work together to achieve advertising equality.