AANA: IAB’s new social media advice is irrelevant

A new set of guidelines issued by the Internet Advertising Bureau which seek to loosen the obligations of brands to police their social media pages has been labelled as “irrelevant” by the Australian Association of National Advertisers.

Earlier today the IAB issued guidelines saying that content on  a brand’s page in place like Facebook should not be treated as advertising.

It contradicted earlier rulings from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Advertising Standards Board – which enforces the self-regulatory rules set down by the AANA – that brands are responsible for the content on their pages. It also suggested looser standards about how often brands should moderate the content from the public on their pages.

This afternoon, the AANA issued a statement saying: “The Australian Association of National Advertisers has today reaffirmed its commitment to how the AANA self regulatory Codes will apply in the digital space and have described the IAB’s comments as irrelevant to brand owners and the operation of the self-regulatory system.”

The AANA stressed that if brands follow the IAB’s advice, they could be found guilty next time there is a complaint against them to the ASB.

The AANA’s new CEO Sunita Gloster said: “The IAB is entitled to its opinion but the reality is that brand owners are committed to the principle that the spirit of the self-regulatory Codes must apply equally in both digital and traditional media. The IAB’s comments will have no bearing on brand owners’ commitment to abide by ASB judgements and the ASB will continue to adjudicate on consumer complaints according to the AANA Codes.”

She added: ““I repeat what we said in November when the AANA updated our practice notes. The reality is that irrespective of the ASB’s determination, any brand owner, who understands and wishes to manage reputational risk, should be adopting these practices. The community absolutely expects that brand owners should aspire to the same ethical standards in the digital space as they do in mainstream media. Also, the suggestion that the application of the Codes to social media will lead to brands vacating the social media space or inhibit dialogue is completely without foundation. Our members say it is business as usual. The reality is that brand owners who do not exercise reasonable care over what is posted and allowed to remain on their social media pages are hostage to fortune and such behaviour is simply anathema to sound brand management and good corporate governance.”

July 18 update: The IAB’s acting CEO Samantha Yorke said: “The IAB’s guidance on social media user comment moderation is consistent with that issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in highlighting the need for an organisation to have knowledge or awareness of an illegal user comment before being held responsible for it. The IAB consulted extensively across the industry to ensure that the recommendations made within the guideline were sensible, practical and had the support of advertisers, agencies, social media platform operators and moderation practitioners. We maintain that it is not commonly accepted that organisations are responsible for anything that anybody says on their branded social media channels. “


  1. Mel
    18 Jul 13
    7:59 am

  2. No Sunita, you are wrong. I work for a large advertiser with a big social media presence and we find this ruling highly relevant.

    We *are* committed to regulatory codes being applied in both the social and media space *for advertising*. The absurd ruling by the ASB was that user comments constitute advertising. An astonishing overreach that indicates just how out of touch the board is with the digital world.

    It appears the board was confused by the far more narrow ruling from the ACCC in relation to a company knowingly failing to correct misleading commentary – which poses a problem under the Trade Practices Act.

    It’s clear from the IAB’s report that they have thought about this a little more than the ASB or the AANA have.

    I know who I’ll be listening to.

  3. mumbrella
    18 Jul 13
    9:33 am

  4. Hi Mel,

    Feel free to listen to who you want to. But bear in mind that the AANA sets the code of practice that the Ad Standards Board enforces. So if you ignore them and go with the IAB’s advice then you risk having an ASB finding against you.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  5. Samantha
    18 Jul 13
    11:23 am

  6. It’s worth noting that the ASB is not a law making authority nor a regulator and they do not look to the law when making decisions. The ASB determinations are only as good as the policy they are based on (i.e. the AANA codes) and in this instance we think the policy that user comments are advertising is wrong. The beauty of self regulatory frameworks is that they can evolve and adapt more easily than legislation and therefore we shouldn’t have to acquiesce to bad policy. We should be having a broad debate on this issue and the IAB guideline is part of that debate.

    Samantha – IAB

  7. Nicky
    18 Jul 13
    1:00 pm

  8. Can the IAB and the AANA please figure out what’s right before publishing anymore guidelines. This “debate” is causing more problems than the guide is meant to fix.

  9. Mel
    18 Jul 13
    9:12 pm

  10. Thanks Tim. I’m well aware of the relevant jurisdictions.

    The point I’m making is that many Australian advertisers will welcome the debate that the IAB’s guideline will generate.

    With any luck it won’t take long for sanity to prevail.