Editorial: Does advertising content meet community standards? September 7, 2020

ACCM notes the merger of the AANA and the Ad Standards Board which aims to ”reduce unnecessary cost and complexity in the self-regulatory system”.

ACCM hopes that a further aim might be to support Ad Standards in “ensuring that advertising content meets community standards”.

Ads Standards (ASB) has a Community Panel set up to consider complaints from the public, about advertising in any medium, in light of all of the Codes and Initiatives administered by the ASB. It meets twice a month to consider complaints and reaches its decision by simple majority .... The Chair is rotated among members on a monthly basis.

Ad Standards says “If a complaint is upheld, the advertiser is requested to remove or amend the offending advertisement as soon as possible after receiving a copy of the draft case report….The effect of a Community Panel determination to uphold a complaint against an advertisement is that [it] cannot be re-broadcast or re-published in the same format or medium …. Regardless of an advertiser’s reaction to a Community Panel determination, in the vast majority of cases where Code breaches are found, advertisers quickly ensure that their advertisement is removed or modified.” See here

That might well be the case, but the real question is whether the Codes and Initiatives being applied by the Panel really reflect community standards.

Looking at the last 5.5 years of the ASB’s Top 10 Most Complained about ads between 2016 and mid 2020, you’d have to wonder about that.

The numbers of such ads where the complaints were dismissed average 7.3 out of 10.

So, large numbers of complaints were received but application of the Codes resulted in them beingdismissed.

One of the issues might be the extent to which the public is aware and get to contribute when the AANA is reviewing its several Codes of Practice, and also how those processes are run.

They certainly lack the transparency of say, those of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Perhaps Richard Bean will introduce some rigour into the system. 

Note: to complain to the ASB, about an ad use this online complaints form


Some of the most complained ad include:

0116/18 – Sportsbet – TV – Free-to-air


Number of complaints: 793


0036/15– Ashley Madison – Avid Life – TV – Free-to-air


Number of complaints: 781


0262/19 - Asaleo Care – Libra – TV – Free to-Air


Number of complaints: 738


0113/18 – iSelect – TV – Free-to-air


Number of complaints: 716


0042/17 – Ultra Tune Australia – TV – Free-to-air


Number of complaints: 421


0024/16 – Ultra Tune Australia – TV – Free-to-air


Number of complaints: 419