Ad bodies call on QLD parliament to reject push to regulate outdoor ads

A example of "sexually explicit" outdoor advertising cited by the Australian Christian Lobby in its submission to the QLD parliamentary inquiry

A example of “sexually explicit” outdoor advertising cited by the Australian Christian Lobby in its submission to the QLD parliamentary inquiry

Advertising industry bodies will urge a Queensland parliamentary inquiry to reject a push for greater regulation of outdoor advertising over concerns from Christian groups in the state, about what they argue is the “sexually explicit” nature of  some outdoor content.

The inquiry, which began today, heard testimony from groups such Australian Christian Lobby’s Wendy Francis and child advocacy group Braveheart’s Hetty Johnston who are urging the state parliament to look at laws that would provide government oversight over outdoor advertising.

The position is being opposed by advertising bodies such as the Outdoor Media Association and the Australian Association of National Advertisers who argue the current self regulatory system is sufficient.

Charmaine Moldrich, CEO of the Outdoor Advertising Association, told Mumbrella: “The evidence is pretty clear that this whole notion that there is this plethora of sexually explicit billboards is a little bit of a misnomer.”

“Most of the time when people are complaining about billboards they are talking about billboards they saw in the 1990s or early 2000s. Prevailing community standards have changed the industry has changed and since 2010 we have done quite a bit of work within the OMA to put into place policies that ensure even the smallest percentage don’t slip through the cracks,” she said.

In its submission to the inquiry the ACL argues that “overtly sexualised imagery should not be tolerated in public spaces”.

The ACL also argues outdoor advertising should be regulated under a classification system similar to what is used on commercial television. It argues there should also be disincentives that “outweighs the gains from brand awareness by the controversy and media attention that offensive advertisements often create.”

In 2011 the ACL was behind a campaign against a outdoor campaign for safe sex among the gay community. The controversy around the “rip and roll” campaign which featured a gay couple hugging while holding a condom packet saw the campaign withdrawn only to be reinstated after social media and mainstream media picked up the story.

In its submission to the inquiry the ACL has chosen not to highlight the “rip and roll” campaign but has instead highlighted an ad for condom manufacturer Ansell which it argues is “not appropriate for general consumption.”


Source: ACL

The ACL submission also highlight  the controversy about a Foxtel billboard for the UK show Black Mirror which was only shown at one site in NSW and which was withdrawn within 48 hours of being posted.


Sunita Gloster, CEO of the AANA, said: “We welcome the opportunity to provide evidence about the AANA self regulatory system to the Queensland parliamentary committee and will seek to reassure the committee that the system is the best mechanism to reflect and protect evolving community standards.”

“The AANA has been working with the OMA in preparing a response to the Inquiry and we will both participate in the hearings in Brisbane.  There is compelling evidence that the AANA self regulatory system and the support it receives from the members of OMA provides appropriate community standards for all advertising and marketing in the outdoor space,” she said.

The industry bodies will testify before the inquiry on August 21. However, in its submission to the inquiry industry body, the AANA acknowledges concerns expressed by some individuals about outdoor advertising but argues the the level of complaint and breach of codes in relation to outdoor advertising is minimal in the context of the level of national advertising.

“The level of breach findings of outdoor ads is even lower and is insignificant when compared with the overall level of outdoor advertising and the overall level of all advertising in Australia,” the AANA submission argues.

“The self-regulatory system and complaints handling system is robust, transparent and well recognised by consumers. The low level of complaint and even lower level of breach findings, indicate a negligible level of consumer concern.”

The OMA says it has run education programs for advertisers and also implemented a content review policy for members when they think content might be controversial or in breach of guidelines. It also notes that it has a content review service for smaller advertisers where the association will help them ensure advertisements are not in breach.

“The outdoor advertising industry ran more than 12,000 different advertisements in Queensland in 2012. Under a classification framework, each of these advertisements would need to be reviewed, and approved,” said Moldrich.

“Introducing this kind of red tape would prove costly for the government, taxpayers, and the many small businesses that use and work within the outdoor advertising industry.”

“We’d like to see the current self-regulatory system maintained so the industry can quickly respond to changes in circumstance, or community attitudes.”

UPDATE: Bravehearts executive director Hetty Johnston told Mumbrella after testifying to the inquiry: “We don’t want red tape where it’s not necessary but we think that if you can’t make laws to protect children then what can you make laws to do.

“My submission was about the impact of highly sexualised content in the community generally that may be targeted towards adults but is being consumed by children,” said Johnston.

The Bravehearts spokeswoman argued  the full impact of sexualised content on children was unknown. “We are not fully understanding the impact on children and there is not enough research on the topic,” she said.

Nic Christensen 


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