Complaints to ASB tops 5,000 with Ashley Maddison and MyPlates among main offenders

Complaints submitted to the Ad Standards Board have already surpassed 5,000 this year, up from around 2,000 complaints submitted last year, Ad Standards Bureau CEO Fiona Jolly has said.

Jolly joined Mumbrella yesterday for a hangout where she talked about a number of issues affecting the advertising regulator, and the question of whether self-regulation is strong enough for the industry to adhere to community standards.

“Generally we receive about 4,000 complaints a year. Last year was quite low, only two and a half thousand, and we’re quite interested in why it was such a low level. All that it takes for there to be a low level of complaints is for there to not be a big ticket ad that gets complaints.

“This year we’re already over 5,000 complaints because there have been a lot of big ticket ads that have generated a lot of complaints. Our most complained about advertisement this year is for the Ashley Madison dating service for married people which has attracted over 300 complaints. Around 4,000, 5,000 and that translates to around 500 ads that go to the board for determination.

Jolly was interviewed in the studio by Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes, with chief reporter Steve Jones taking questions via the comment thread and social media.

Below are the timecodes for topics covered during the hangout:

00.00 – 1.14: Introductions

1:15 – 3.38: Jolly explains how the ASB works and its role within the ad industry’s system of self-regulation and how the board assess complaints using the AANA’s Code of Ethics and the other codes the ASB adminsters . “Our role is to deal with complaints on the content of advertising,” she said. “Our remit is limited by what the code of ethics defines as advertising and marketing. It is also limited by the provisions of the code.”

3:39 – 4.33: Jolly explains who sets the codes the ASB administers.

4.34 – 5.54: Jolly explains who makes up the Bureau and the Board and how they work together.

6.20 – 9.12:  Jolly covers how many complaints the board receives and what generally are the most complained about issues, highlighting two of the most complained about ads which are two spots for MyPlates. She also covers how many ads are banned.

9.13 – 12.06: Question from social media: Susan Moore asks why is Ashely Madison allowed to advertise on TV? Jolly said the ASB looks at the content of the ad, not the product or the service being advertised, explaining the service was promoted quite late at night and therefore appropriate to its audience. Jolly said it is up to government to restrict what types of products can be advertised, citing the restriction on cigarettes.

12.07 – 18.02: Jolly talks about the power of the ASB in relation to rulings against Wicked Campers and a perceived “lack of teeth” in being able to enforce the board’s rulings. “Self-regulation only works if advertisers support the system,” she said. “The system that we have has over a 99 per cent compliance rate.  Unfortunately we do have one or two advertisers who don’t comply. That is only we’re finding where the advertiser is advertising on their own premises or vehicle.”

“I don’t think we need more teeth, we’re talking about one or two advertisers who do the wrong thing.”

18.03 – 20.51:Jolly address concerns from lobby groups that self-regulation is not working and concerns of pressure on the board of not upholding complaints around sex.

20:52 – 22.49 : Hayes quizzes Jolly on the Ultratune rubber ad ruling, which saw a complaint against the spot, which featured women dressed in rubber suits, dismissed.

22:50 – 25.46: Question from social media: Why shouldn’t all ads be rated G?

25.57 – 26.58: Question from social media: Why does ASB refuse to consider a complaint if the company voluntarily withdraws an ad? Jolly explained the decision if a complaint against a withdrawn ad is handed onto the board is up to her, and some do if it will provide a useful precedent in the future.

26.59 – 27.57: Hayes clarifies if withdrawn means withdrawn from all mediums including social media. Jolly explains a ruling can apply to a specific broadcast of an ad.

27.58 – 30.53: Question from social media: Why are alcohol companies allowed to advertise on public transport and bus stops? Jolly explains it is up to government to restrict what and where things can be advertised.

30.54 – 34:53: Jolly explains a decision on a Devenondale spot being upheld for being racist.

34:54 – 38.49: Question from social media: Caitlin Roper: The ASB has dismissed complaints around the sex/porn industry if they’re related to the product even if they are in public spaces near school, how can that be justified? Jolly explains again that there are no government restrictions on sex/porn industry services being advertised, the ASB can only assess the ad based on the content. Jolly also addresses a billboard for a strip club near a school which had complaints against it dismissed.

38.50 – 40.40: Question from social media: You ruled on your own ad earlier this year, how could you possibly do that? Jolly explained the ASB is in the process of finding an independent body to rule on its own advertisements in the future.


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