Booze ad watchdog hits back at AANA: ‘If they did a better job, we wouldn’t be needed’

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board has responded to angry comments from the advertising community that the group – which is backed by health campaigners – lacks legitimacy.

Yesterday, the Australian Association of National Advertisers said the AARB – which was set up because it believes that alcohol advertising self-regulation is not working – was determined to “tear down the current system”, but is flawed as it is acting as “legislator, plaintiff, judge and jury” on booze ads.

The AANA labelled the AARB “a PR stunt with no ability to resolve complaints”, adding that the group was falsely generating complaints by prompting its own network of supporters to complain anonymously about alcohol ads.

As reported yesterday, of the 94 determinations made by the AARB since August last year, only eight were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Professor Mike Daube from the health policy unit at Perth’s Curtin University, who is director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, which backs the AARB, told Mumbrella: “The complacent AANA assertion that alcohol advertising self-regulation “is effective” overlooks both the weakness of the codes and the vast swathes of alcohol promotion that are left unscathed, from sports sponsorship onwards.”

The AANA may not like the AARB, “but if they did a better job it wouldn’t be needed,” Daube said.

He rejected the claim that the AARB is a PR stunt, calling its work “a serious move to bring greater responsibility to alcohol promotion, and to protect children.”

The AANA and Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code systems look more like public relations exercises designed to fend off regulation, he countered.

Daube added: “The AANA comments are wonderfully self-serving, spiced with hyperbole. They say we have no capacity to resolve complaints – but neither does the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code.”

“They argue that their system works well because there aren’t many complaints – overlooking the criticisms that they attract little trade because they are ineffective, or because few people know much about them.”

He also rebuffed the idea that the AARB is self-appointed, so lacks legitimacy.

“The AANA says our committee is “self-appointed” – but so is theirs. They claim that the AARB is neither “an alternative” nor “independent”. It is clearly an alternative, even if they don’t like it; and unlike the AANA and ABAC, it is completely independent of alcohol and related advertising interests.”

According to the ASIC register as of 17th September, the ABAC Scheme’s address and principal place of business was the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia; the three directors were from the spirits, wine and beer industries, and the company secretary was the executive officer of the ABAC, Daube added.

“How “independent” does that make the ABAC Scheme?” he queried.

Responding to the accusation that the AARB falsely generates complaints, Daube said: “Of course we make health groups aware of the AARB – as we do the rest of the community – and complaints are taken on their merits from all.”

“But I can understand their obvious preference that nobody should draw attention to their system’s failings,” he said.

Robin Hicks


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