‘We’re not quite there yet’: Ad Council launches accreditation to boost professionalism, ethics

A new industry accreditation scheme has been launched by Advertising Council Australia in a bid to foster a “new era of trust, accountability, integrity and respect”.

The scheme, several years in the making, will bind member agencies to a set of agreed standards covering ethics, employee wellbeing and safety, diversity and inclusion, learning and development, and sustainability.

While advertising has a “reputation for creativity and delivering growth for businesses”, it is not always seen as the most professional industry, Publicis Groupe boss and ACA deputy chairman Michael Rebelo conceded.

The ACA has launched an accreditation scheme for the advertising industry.

“We want to make sure our industry is seen as being highly professional,” Rebelo said.

“And we want to make sure our people, both now and in the future, see a career in advertising as not just exciting and innovative, but one that has a highly professional reputation.

“I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”

The need for the scheme was borne from two pieces of research conducted by ACA – a direct survey of member agencies over 18 months and the employee-focused Create Space report.

While many positives were identified, particularly full compliance with legislative requirements among big agencies, gaps were identified, particularly within the mid-to small-tier space, ACA chief executive Tony Hale said.

“The member survey (found) only 29% were confident their staff had undertaken compliance training. Some other issues were a little distributing – (a lack of) understanding of workplace obligations… which is not really acceptable.”

From the Create Space results, “some blind spots” were identified when it comes to retention, with one-in-five planning to leave the industry over the next three years due to a lack of inclusion.

“And 28% are suffering some kind of mental health issue,” Hale said. “You can see there’s some work needed.”

Michael Rebelo will be inaugural chair of the ACA Accreditation Committee.

Hale insisted the scheme won’t be a toothless tiger, with a Member Rules Committee to be established to hear complaints of breaches.

“It gives the Ad Council the power to sanction, which could be a suspension, a termination, or even just a ‘please explain’.”

Those referrals will be treated confidential, and while any adverse findings will not necessarily be publicised, Hale noted: “If someone is no longer a member, I think the market will know.”

Obtaining accreditation will require four things from member agencies – an up-to-date staff handbook, an employee assistance program, a trained mental health officer on staff for workplaces with more than 50 staff, and a concerted effort to offer coaching and compliance.

The ACA will also encourage and reward members to “go further” with A+ endorsements for targeted initiatives, such as reconciliation, said Rebelo, who will serve as the inaugural chair of the accreditation committee.

And over time, tiered accreditation will be introduced for those reaching certain standards, yet to be confirmed, receiving a gold, platinum or diamond standard rating.

“Our feeling is that the Ad Council has to be inclusive and set standards that are appropriate for the whole industry – that’s how you lift the whole industry,” Rebelo said.

Accreditation will benefit everyone, he added – “clients, agencies of any size, and most importantly, our people.

“To be ACA-accredited will be a mark of distinction that demonstrates an agency’s commitment to developing ethical strategies that ensure continuous support, growth and innovation.

“This will make a demonstrable difference to how we operate, and not just the product we create – ultimately building a more diverse and sustainable future for our industry.”

ACA member agencies can apply for accreditation from June 5.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.