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Industry warns against ‘self-appointed activist ad review board with zero authority’

Alcohol Advertising Review Board logoThe Advertising Standards Bureau today became the latest organisation to warn of confusion over a self-appointed “Alcohol Advertising Review Board” created by health campaigners as a rival to the industry-supported body.

The ASB warned that the alternative review board would have no power to ban ads, and had no support from advertisers or media owners. It said: “The current system of resolving complaints about alcohol ads has the support of industry and uses an effective, robust and quick process to review ads and remove them quickly if required.”

The ASB warned that the new board “Has no power to remove ads, no independent view and has not sought support for its work from the industry.”

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board is based at the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth at Curtin University. The new body’s website uses similar language to the existing ASB, including offering a section offering “determination reports”. The design and terminology of the site might makes it appear to be an official body to somebody who arrives via search looking for where to complain about an ad. It also features a large image warning: Your children see these adverts”.

your children see these adverts

According to the site ” The advertisers responsible for advertisements which are the subject of complaints will be notified of the complaint in writing and invited to provide a written response within 7 working days (provided the advertiser can be identified and located). Non-response will not prevent the complaint being reviewed.”

It adds: “If the adjudicating Panel decide that the complaint is to be upheld, the Alcohol Advertising Review Board will contact the advertiser to request withdrawal or modification of the advertisement.”

However, other than the power to embarrass advertisers with bad publicity, the new body will not be able to compel advertisers to respond, or to obey its instructions.

The campaign group also includes a link to what it describes as the ten worst decisions under the Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code, which is administered by the ASB.

On Friday the Australian Association of National Advertisers warned:

“Make no mistake, this action by activists – to form an alternative complaints mechanism to the Advertising Standards Board and ABAC – is the action of those who want to tear the advertising complaints system. It has no power to enforce rulings, no independence, and no standing whatsoever in the community.

“At the moment if a member of the public lodges a complaint with the ASB and it is upheld there will be a satisfactory resolution with the advertisement removed by the advertiser and the media outlets. Setting up your own self-appointed adjudication system that has zero effectiveness or authority will simply confuse the public, reduce the effectiveness of the independent ASB and is therefore to the detriment of the Australian community.”

The new body scored an early PR victory with several newspapers covering it over the weekend including the SMH which headlined the launch as “Watchdog to keep booze ads away from children“.

The ASB is funded by the advertising industry with board members coming from within the community.

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