Stats cover the 2,773 complaints received by Ad Standards in 2013, a decrease from the 3,640 in 2012. This is the lowest amount since 2007 (2,602 complaints). From the complaints received in 2013 the Board considered 409 advertisements with an additional 17 withdrawn by advertisers before Board consideration. Of the 409 advertisements considered, 61 of these advertisements were found to be in breach of the Code.
Last year was Ad Standards’ 15th year of operation. During the 15 years Ad Standards has received a total of 43,570 complaints. The number of cases dealt with in that time totals 7,042. Of all cases considered since operations began, the Board has found just over seven per cent to breach the Code.
Representatives from industry, Government and the community joined with international speakers to discuss the different methods used in countries around the world in achieving best practice in advertising self-regulation.
The luncheon covered information about the benefits of advertising self-regulation, developments and issues facing advertising standards and controls in different parts of the world. In Australia alcohol advertising, advertising to children, outdoor advertising and online advertising are all issues facing advertisers and self-regulation bodies. These are also issues that face advertisers in the Asia Pacific region and around the world.
Highlighted by all speakers was the need to share information and experiences to assist other countries in continuing to meet best practice principles, to improve existing systems, better address emerging policy issues, and to assist countries in establishing effective advertising self-regulation systems.
The work of European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) in developing and coordinating advertising best practice recommendations which self-regulatory member organisations are encouraged to implement was also discussed. EASA is the key organisation regarding advertising self-regulation in Europe and beyond. It promotes high ethical standards in commercial communications through effective self-regulation and provides ongoing support to member self-regulation organisations. In 2006 ASB joined the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) to ensure access to an appropriate best practice model for advertising complaint resolution.
The ad, being broadcast on TV and online, highlights that all ad complaints will be given a fair hearing by the Board, which is made up of diverse community members.
The campaign hopes to raise awareness of the role of Ad Standards and the Board, as well as highlighting to people how easy it is to lodge a complaint online.
Take a look at the ad:
Several members of the Board feature in the ad. We thank Board members Graham, Karen, Maria, Paula and Peter for their involvement in our campaign.
Ad Standards also appreciates the assistance provided by our Bureau Board Chairman, Ian Alwill, and Bureau Board Director John McLaren, as well as the creative input of Rob Palmer (The Palmer Agency) and Bill Mulham (Flicks Australia). The support of television networks is also helping to spread the message around Australia that Board members are people from the community, not advertisers or industry representatives.
Gambling operators, like any other industry, have the right to advertise their products. However just like every other industry their advertisements cannot breach the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics. In particular they cannot advertise in a way that breaches section 2.6 of the Code which states that Advertising and marketing communications shall not depict material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.
This is the part of the code that the Advertising Standards Board will look at when the ASB receives complaints about gambling advertisements. While the Board cannot look at the placement or frequency of advertisements, they can look at the messages shown in the advertisement. The Board has found that any advertisement that encourages excessive gambling, or that may make gambling attractive to children, will be found to breach the Code on the grounds that it goes against the prevailing community standards around what constitutes safe gambling.
The ASB will look at any gambling advertisement that receives a complaint, including online, in an app or on social media. So it is important for advertisers to consider whether their advertisement breaches the Code in all forms of advertising. In addition to the Code, additional restrictions on gambling advertising exist for television and radio broadcast.
In recent years there has been growing community concern over gambling advertising, particularly during sporting events. In response to this concern, and to deflect calls for direct Government regulation, the broadcasting industry reacted with the FreeTV, The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association and Commercial Radio Australia Codes of Practice have imposed limitations on discussing gambling odds during commentary. Under these codes gambling advertisements must also be clearly identified as such.
A new Ad Standards public awareness campaign is due to be released in February 2014 with the aim to raise awareness of the people (the Board) who consider complaints received by the Ad Standards Bureau.
The new advertisement, which will be broadcast on TV and online, will show how quick and easy it is to use the online complaints system, but also highlights that all complaints are given a fair hearing and serious consideration by a Board made up of diverse community members.
Recent research has indicated that spontaneous awareness of Ad Standards as a complaints organisation continues to remain high, but that not everyone understands that there is a Board made up of people independent of the advertising industry. Ad Standards hopes to increase this level of awareness, while also highlighting the ease of using the complaints system and that all complaints are given careful consideration.
Several members of the Ad Standards Board feature in the ad. We thank Board members Graham, Karen, Maria, Paula and Peter for their involvement in our campaign.
Ad Standards also appreciates the assistance provided by our Bureau Board Chairman, Ian Alwill, and Bureau Board Director John McLaren, as well as the creative input of Rob Palmer (The Palmer Agency) and Bill Mulham (Flicks Australia).
In late 2013, the ASB commissioned research to explore community attitudes on the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative and degrading manner in advertising. The ASB has released a fact sheet detailing the main findings of this research report.
The 2013 research also indicated that the community had a high awareness of the ASB and recognised the importance of the work of the ASB.
‘It is important to continually assess community attitudes as these may change over time, and we need to ensure Board decisions reflect these changes in community views. The strong alignment between Board decisions and community opinions found in the 2013 research report is a positive sign demonstrating the Board is in touch with the views of the community in this sensitive area of how people, particularly women are used in advertising,’ ASB CEO, Ms Fiona Jolly said.
The full research report into sexual appeal in an exploitative and degrading manner in advertising will be made available in coming weeks through the ASB website.
The most complained about ad in 2013 was a television ad featuring a mouth detaching itself from its owner resulting in 66 complaints, with the second most complained about ad being a television ad featuring adults with children’s heads at 42 complaints.
This year’s most complained about ads raise a broader range of issues than in previous years, although complaint numbers about individual ads are lower. “In recent years there have been advertisements which have resulted in up to 220 complaints. Last year’s most complained about ad received more than double the complaints than this year’s number one,” ASB CEO Fiona Jolly said.
Ms Jolly discusses these advertisements further in a TV interview.
Regional Advertising standards about to take an exciting leap forward
Advertising is an important influence on economic growth in the APEC region and greater alignment in advertising standards across the APEC region are becoming more likely following important work progressing in APEC. In early October 2013 APEC Leaders announced that they are ‘looking forward to the progression of work on advertising standards’ for 2014. This effectively endorses the work that has been accomplished in the last year on establishing greater consistency in the application of advertising regulatory frameworks in the region. The Leaders’ statement has placed advertising standards firmly on industry’s agenda for 2014, China’s year of APEC leadership.
With the support of APEC leaders recently announced, the Advertising Standards Bureau Australia (ASBA) and its international partners are now working to identify the next steps. APEC will soon finalise a project on identifying gaps in the advertising system and standards in the region. From there APEC members will take action to use the resources of existing systems, such as those in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Canada and others, to provide capacity building training and development to bring the systems and standards in all APEC economies to a level that will best benefit all communities.
The International Chamber of Commerce and the ASB continue to work together to promote the development of regional advertising standards as a 2014 priority. Keep watching the ASB website for updates and for information.
An article by Encore magazine has investigated the role and relevance of the ASB. Industry representatives have shown support in this article for the advertising industry’s self-regulatory environment.
ASB CEO Fiona Jolly (pictured) said ‘self-regulation of advertising is critical for the industry and it’s critical that there is an effective system for managing complaints and concern about advertising’.
A Queensland Government inquiry into outdoor advertising has heard that the current system of self-regulation is quick, easy to access and that the community is well aware of the place to complain.
In responding to Committee questions about the immediacy of actions against advertisers found to breach Codes, Advertising Standards Bureau CEO, Ms Fiona Jolly, highlighted the speed of resolution of cases, at around 35 calendar days. She questioned the speed of response of Government and legislative agencies in dealing with matters raised, highlighting correspondence seeking assistance with a matter which was sent to the Queensland Minister of Police in March this year, for which she has not yet received a response.
Ms Jolly said the almost perfect compliance rate with Board decisions showed a responsible industry. She said the process of dealing with the very few outdoor ads which are found to breach Codes was well supported by industry bodies such as the Outdoor Media Association.
In other information presented to the inquiry, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) highlighted a reduction in complaints about outdoor ads over the past three years. The OMA suggested training provided by the AANA, ASB and OMA to industry has had a big impact on the number ads complained about. Ms Jolly also highlighted results from the Bureau’s research which shows a consistently high unprompted awareness of the complaints system of 62-67% over last four years.
Ms Jolly said planning is underway for a new public awareness campaign which would ensure the high level of awareness was maintained, but would also address another research result which showed that a higher percentage of people couldn’t be bothered complaining—the campaign will highlight that complaining is easy and it matters.