1 in 3 Australians has recently seen advertising they found unacceptable: report

Ad Standards, Australia’s advertising complaints adjudicator, has released new research providing some insight into community perceptions of advertising and what Australians consider acceptable and unacceptable in advertising content.

The research, conducted in late 2021, shows that while Australians are happy seeing more inclusivity and diversity in advertising, 1 in 3 Australians has recently seen advertising they found unacceptable.

“Ad Standards gives a voice to community concerns and guides industry in creating ads that meet community standards – but those standards change over time,” Ad Standards executive director Richard Bean said.

“This research, combined with our own complaints data, provides us with valuable insights into what Australians consider acceptable and what are the key areas of community concern.”

The research revealed that more than half of Australians are concerned about the use of sexual appeal in advertising. Other concerns include advertising targeting children, the content of gambling ads and brands trying to be controversial or offensive to stand out.

While 1 in 20 Australians say they have made a formal complaint about advertising, 8 in 10 Australians agree that it’s important for advertising to have a set of rules they must follow and 3 in 4 agree that the role of Ad Standard is important.

“It is pleasing to see that there is strong support for the advertising industry rules and that the community sees the role Ad Standards plays as an important one – handling complaints and guiding industry in creating ads that are socially responsible,” Bean said.

The research also tested whether past decisions made by the Ad Standards Community Panel align with current community views in relation to the sections of the AANA Code of Ethics that deal with discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading sexual imagery, and the portrayal of sex, sexuality and nudity.

“While the Ad Standards Community Panel is made up of Australians from all walks of life and reflects the diversity of Australian society, we regularly compare their decisions on key areas of community concern with a representative sample of Australians to inform future decision making,” Bean said.

The results show the Community Panel and general community strongly agree about depictions of discrimination, while views on sexual imagery are less clear cut with perspectives differing markedly by gender and age.

“As might be expected, the community can be divided and sometimes undecided about sensitive issues,” Bean said.

“As an independent and diverse group of Australians, the Ad Standards Community Panel faces this same challenge when making a final determination. Whether complaints are upheld or dismissed can often come down to a vote. If the vote is close, the case report will reflect a range of views.”

Along with the relevant provisions in the AANA Code of Ethics, the Ad Standards Community Panel will consider these research insights and the latest community views when making determinations.

To view a summary of the research visit


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