The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has announced it has amended clause 2.2 of its overarching Code of Ethics to prohibit advertising that uses sexual appeal in a manner that is either ‘exploitative or degrading’.
Previously, the code prohibited the use of sexual appeal that was ‘exploitative and degrading’.
At the same time, the AANA has amended its definition of ‘exploitative’ to ensure greater clarity for advertisers. The existing prohibition on the use of any sexual appeal in advertising that portrays minors remains unchanged.
The AANA said that in evaluating the application of section 2.2 of the Code of Ethics, it could see no logical reason why ads that the Advertising Standards Board deemed to use sexual appeal in a manner that was ‘exploitative’ alone should also not be prohibited under the code.
The term ‘exploitative’ will now be defined as: “(a) taking advantage of the sexual appeal of a person, or group of people, by depicting them as commodities; or (b) focusing on their body parts where this bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised.”
To date, exploitative has been defined as: “clearly appearing to purposefully debase or abuse a person, or group of persons, for the enjoyment of others, and lacking moral, artistic or other values.”
The definition of ‘degrading’ will remain unchanged as “lowering in character or quality a person or group of people”.
AANA chief executive John Broome said: “We are confident that the changes we are now making to the Code of Ethics and the accompanying practice note will better align to community expectations.
“We want to make it absolutely clear that it is not acceptable to use sexual appeal either by depicting people as commodities or by focussing on their bodies when such a focus bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised.
“Furthermore, when the ASB conducted extensive community research recently to evaluate the extent to which Advertising Standards Board determinations aligned with broader community opinion, it emerged that clause 2.2 could be drafted in such a way to improve alignment with community standards.”
Broome said the AANA had taken note of community debate about the use of sexual appeal both in popular culture and in advertising.
It also consulted closely with the Advertising Standards Bureau and industry bodies like the Outdoor Media Association, which Broome said are fully supportive of the proposed amendments.
“For the vast majority of advertisers, this change will not impact their modus operandi,” he said.
“The reality is that most already ensure that their advertising does not use sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading.”
The changes to the AANA’s Code of Ethics will come into effect on Thursday 1 March 2018.