The Australian Association of National Advertisers has described an opinion piece written by Melinda Tankard Reist, in which the author claims industy self regulation has failed to stop the objectification of women and the sexualisation of children, as “baseless and inaccurate”.
The AANA’s response, written by CEO Scott McClellan, reads:
The recent guest post by Melinda Tankard Reist, “Stop making sex objects of women and kids”, makes baseless and inaccurate claims about the advertising self-regulatory system.
The fact is, much to the frustration of its critics, the AANA self-regulatory system is working well and should continue. A recent parliamentary inquiry acknowledged this fact and recommended that the self-regulatory system should continue along with the complaints mechanism which underpins it.
The AANA Codes which form the basis of the self-regulatory system are technology and platform neutral and apply across the board to all media and all advertisers. The self-regulatory system is underpinned by a robust and transparent complaints handling system, adjudicated by the independent Advertising Standards Board (ASB). The complaints process has a high level of consumer awareness and is cross promoted through many regulators’ and industry websites, such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the ACCC.
The claim of “inadequate monitoring” is without support. The self-regulatory system is under continuous review with reference to consumer complaints and parliamentary inquiries.
An example of the responsiveness of the AANA self-regulatory system to community concern, is the review of the AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communication to Children. The review included an extensive consultation process, with input from community and parent groups. Significant amendments were made to the Code in response to growing community concerns about sexualisation of children in the media, including a direct prohibition against the sexualisation of children and a ban on the use of sexual imagery in advertising targeted at children. AANA also expanded the definition of ‘advertising’ to capture other forms of ‘marketing communication’, so that direct-to-consumer marketing activity, such as product websites or sampling activity targeted primarily at children, can now be subject to the Code.
In October 2009, AANA further published practical guidance for advertisers and marketers: Practice Guide – Managing Images of Children and Young People, which expressly stipulates that “advertisers/marketers must respect the integrity of children and young people by taking action appropriate to their age and maturity to protect them from ill-treatment and exploitation, including sexual exploitation.“
The self-regulatory system applies in the outdoor space and is working well to meet community expectations as reflected in the complaints figures for that medium. In 2010 there were some 33 million national ads across all media (this does not include ads on regional/local media). On average, the ASB considers complaints about approximately 600 ads per year, about 0.0018% of all national ads (as monitored by Nielsen). Of the 600 considered by the ASB, around 80 or 13.3% (of the 600) were upheld. The total upheld complaints out of the total number of ads is very low, at around 0.00024%.
Claims that the ASB is powerless to remove advertisements is also without merit. Advertisers demonstrate a high level of compliance with decisions of the ASB through the withdrawal of advertisements which are found in breach of AANA Codes.
Advertisers’ commitment to the self-regulatory system is also demonstrated through programs of education and promotion conducted by the AANA and its industry partners.
AANA encourages the industry and members of the public to engage with the AANA Advertising and Marketing Codes and Practice Guides to help advertisers in delivering a responsible and effective self-regulatory framework.