Editorial discretion “no excuse” for inappropriate Facebook posts: Ad boards

Editorial discretion “no excuse” for inappropriate Facebook posts: Ad boards

Content uploaded to Facebook is “marketing in its simplest form” and dubbing it editorial should not excuse it from industry-equivalent repercussions, two advertising bodies say.

Commenting on Zoo Weekly’s recent Facebook controversy, which saw a woman split in half and encouraged fans to choose her best side, the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ CEO Alina Bain said Facebook content is well within the marketing realm.

Last week, the Advertising Standards Bureau found the photo was amongst uploaded material that was exploitative to women and breached its code of practice.

 But Zoo Weekly said it was “editorial”, not advertising, and therefore did not have to adhere to the same standards.

“To describe Zoo’s Facebook page as a 'marketing communication' is to misunderstand the nature of modern media organisations and the way in which they use social media to engage with their audience,” a spokesperson said.

“The content complained of was clearly editorial content and its publication on a Facebook page does not alter that characterisation.”

B&T has been informed that the image in question has since been removed.

The AANA’s Bain said: “The definition of marketing is material that promotes a product or service.”

“In this case, it’s promoting the magazine and its aim is to drive sales.”

Bain said the Facebook posts were “no different to TV or billboard ads” because they had the same result.

Earlier this year, the AANA released a series of guidelines encouraging brands to check their content and interactions at least once a day.

The Advertising Standards Bureau’s CEO Fiona Jolly told B&T that the board followed the AANA’s guidelines when making its ruling on the Zoo Weekly content last week.

She said it was an “interesting case” ethically, but “in our view it fairly fits within the definition of advertising and marketing communications”.

“Exploitative is partly guided by the AANA code of ethics practice note – ‘Purposefully debasing people for the enjoyment of others. And lacking moral, artistic or other values’,” she said.

“Depiction of the women as slabs of meat and asking people to tell what you do with them – seems to it quite clearly in here.”

In terms of enforcing moderation, the AANA’s Bain said it’s “up to the brands” to manage their own pages.

“It would be good practice to be checking in and out and looking for material that could be seen as inappropriate,” she said. 

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