The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has announced that its public review of its overarching self-regulatory Code, the AANA Code of Ethics, is now complete and an updated Code will take effect in February 2021. The purpose of the review was to assess whether the Code continues to reflect community standards. The new code can be accessed here.
The key changes to the Code of Ethics and associated Practice Note will give clearer guidance to advertisers, ensuring that there are more explicit obligations to avoid harm to consumers and society by:
• prohibiting undue focus on male or female anatomy, unless that focus is relevant to the product or service being advertised;
• avoiding the use of sexualised imagery or graphic violence or horror, particularly where children are likely to view the material; and
• avoiding harmful gender stereotyping. The new Code and Practice Note can be accessed here and will be applied by the Ad Standards Community
Panel when adjudicating complaints about advertising content.
The AANA Code of Ethics aims to ensure advertising in Australia is legal, honest and decent, and reflects prevailing community standards. It applies to all marketing communication targeted at consumers in Australia across digital and traditional media platforms.
The review consisted of wide-ranging public consultation (with more than 160 submissions received) and commissioned research from Ipsos in metropolitan and regional Australia to help determine what Australians think is acceptable in advertising. Community concerns were focused largely on the use of sexual appeal, nudity and violence in advertising and negative gender stereotyping.
“It is very clear from submissions and the Ipsos research that the vast majority of advertising in Australia meets the community’s expectations. However, it is apparent the Code’s Practice Note should be strengthened to lessen the risk of certain advertising appearing, particularly the use of hyper-sexualised imagery that is not relevant to the product and can be easily viewed by children,” the ANNA’s CEO, John Broome (main phto) said.
“All recent advertising has met community standards in relation to gender portrayal but we are moving to provide more explicit guidance to ensure that a problem doesn’t occur in the future. The Practice Note now explain that harmful gender stereotypes are unacceptable because they can perpetuate unconscious bias and rigid norms of femininity and masculinity that incorrectly shape what it means to be a girl, woman, boy or man,” Broome said.
The Ipsos research shows that the public perceives that the ‘dumb blonde’ and the ‘incompetent dad’ are the most damaging stereotypes. Community feedback is that the issue of negative gender stereotyping, and advertising’s role in potentially reinforcing it, is of greater concern today than it was some years ago.
“The AANA is committed to providing an ethical standard that is aligned to contemporary community standards. Community expectations are not static, they do shift over time and that is why we are committed to regular reviews involving public consultation to ensure that we keep pace with expectations. Not only is this key to ensuring advertisers are socially responsible, our research shows that those brands that consumers view as being socially responsible deliver better business outcomes1,” the Chair of the AANA, Martin Brown said.
The new Code also makes it more explicit that social media influencers have a positive obligation to disclose any commercial arrangements they may have with brand owners, in a clear manner that can be easily understood by consumers. For example, the inclusion of #ad, advert or paid partnership are among some of
he terms influencers can use to ensure there is transparency in their posts. Less clear labels, such as #sp, spon, gifted, collab or merely mentioning the brand name, may not be sufficient to clearly distinguish the post as advertising.
The AANA will conduct a series of workshops with supporting material to help advertisers understand and adhere to the Code and its associated Practice Note.
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