Credit Where it’s Due: Fiona Jolly

It’s a decade since Fiona Jolly was asked to take the reigns of the ad industry watchdog, the Advertising Standards Bureau. It was, at the time, a conflicted, secretive, slow and narrowly focused regulator in need of a jolly good shakeup. Ten years on, she has delivered.creditLogoFNl-234x1021

Australia’s system of advertising self-regulation was set up in 1998, emerging from the rubble of the previous system which had been tied to the advertising agency system of accreditation ruled out of date in a Federal Court decision.

The decision left Australia without an advertising regulator for nearly two years as the industry scrambled to develop one of self-regulation, but the version, set up under the guidance of the Australian Association of National Advertisers, was troubled from the outset.

Slow to react, with narrow terms of reference and a chairman who was also a director of the AANA and a public advocate for freedom of commercial speech, the ASB struggled to find true public acceptance.

When she arrived at the helm Jolly was faced with a massive task building industry and public faith in the system at a time when critics were calling for an end to self-regulation.

In under a year Jolly managed to reform the ASB, showing her independence from the AANA as an administrator, broadening the terms of reference of the cases the ASB could hear, adding new members and publishing for the first time the entire catalogue of every complaint ever judged.



Crucially, she also allowed online submissions of complaints for the first time, (and started accepting complaints about online ads) moves that saw the number of complaints to the ASB skyrocket, but also gave consumers faith that the system was meeting their needs.

It was a herculean effort and advertisers learned along with the evolution of the system.

Jolly has also instituted systems to swiftly address complaints about ads that draw large numbers of submissions, bringing an end the days when ads were judged long after their campaigns had ended.

She has run the industry’s system of self-regulation during the most dynamic period the industry has ever seen, with an explosion of platforms and advertising formats touching (and offending) consumers in new and unforeseen ways.

Yet the calls for government to step in and regulate the behaviour of advertisers has all but disappeared in that time.

And she continues to adjust the ASB to emerging trends, with public relations now also a part of its remit.

The success of the model has seen the ASB emerge as a global leader in self-regulation and become a model for the region.

If the future under Jolly’s guidance is any reflection of her first decade, the industry is in good hands.

Credit Where it’s Due is all about generating positivity about our fantastic industry. While we welcome positive and constructive comments, anonymous or otherwise, this feature is a snark-free zone so please bear that in mind when commenting.


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