AANA tightens rules around using sexual appeal in advertising

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has updated its Code of Ethics to “better align with community expectations” around using sexual appeal in advertising.

AANA says it has looked closely at community debate

Previously, the Code prohibited advertising which relied on “exploitative and degrading” sexual appeal – meaning a brand had to be found guilty of both in order to be banned. The updated code now states an ad is in breach if it is “exploitative or degrading”, which broadens the scope of ads it can be applied to. ‘Exploitative’ has also been redefined under the code. 

The AANA said advertisements that the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) deemed to use sexual appeal in a manner that was ‘exploitative’ alone should be prohibited, and there was no logical reason they had to be degrading as well.

“We are confident that the changes we are now making to the Code of Ethics and the accompanying practice note will better align to community expectations,” AANA’s new CEO John Broome said. “We want to make it absolutely clear that it is not acceptable to use sexual appeal either by depicting people as commodities or by focussing on their bodies when such a focus bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised.

“Furthermore, when the ASB conducted extensive community research recently to evaluate the extent to which Advertising Standards Board determinations aligned with broader community opinion, it emerged that clause 2.2 could be drafted in such a way to improve alignment with community standards.”

Broome: Sexual appeal in advertising should not depict people as commodities 

Broome said the AANA had taken note of community debate about the use of sexual appeal in popular culture and advertising and noted the changes had the support of bodies such as the ASB and the Outdoor Media Association (OMA).

“For the vast majority of advertisers, this change will not impact their modus operandi. The reality is that most already ensure that their advertising does not use sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading,” Broome said.

The term “exploitative” will now be defined by the AANA as:

“(a) taking advantage of the sexual appeal of a person, or group of people, by depicting them as commodities; or (b) focussing on their body parts where this bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised.”

The definition has been updated from the AANA’s previous interpretation, which was:

“clearly appearing to purposefully debase or abuse a person, or group of persons, for the enjoyment of others, and lacking moral, artistic or other values.”

“Degrading” remains unchanged in the eyes of the AANA:

“lowering in character or quality a person or group of people.”

The changes are effective from 1 March, 2018. The existing prohibition . on the use of any sexual appeal in advertising that portrays minors remains unchanged.



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