AANA releases new advertising code of ethics

Updated code now includes restrictions on advertising that perpetuates gender stereotypes along with new rules for disclosing influencer commercial relationships

The AANA has released its new code of ethics for advertising, following a comprehensive review, initiated in 2019.

The new code applies to all advertising in Australia and is intended to ensure advertising is legal, honest and reflects prevailing community standards. The review included wide-ranging public consultation and Ipsos research on behalf of AANA to examine people’s attitudes to issues like using gender stereotypes, sexual appeal, nudity and violence in advertising.

The updated code is due to come into effect from 1 February 2021 and includes several key changes. These include an obligation to avoid harm to consumers and society and prohibit harmful gender stereotypes. The changes only affect harmful gender stereotypes, so showing women buying tampons and men shaving will still be fine, the AANA said.   

The revised code will also prohibit the focus on body parts where not relevant to the product or service being advertised and prohibit use of overtly sexual images in outdoor advertising or shop front windows or where the image is not relevant to the product or service being advertised. 

The Ipsos research showed community feedback is that the issue of negative gender stereotyping, and advertising’s role in potentially reinforcing it, is of greater concern today than it was some years ago. It also found the public perceived the ‘dumb blonde’ and ‘incompetent dad’ as the most damaging stereotypes.

There will also be new restrictions for advertising containing violent or menacing content to ensure harmful content is not displayed where children form part of the audience. And in a change that will affect influencer marketing, there is to be an obligation on influencers to disclose commercial relationships in a clear, upfront manner that can be easily understood.

"It is very clear from submissions and the Ipsos research that the vast majority of advertising in Australia meets the community’s expectations. However, it is apparent the Code’s Practice Note should be strengthened to lessen the risk of certain advertising appearing, particularly the use of hyper-sexualised imagery that is not relevant to the product and can be easily viewed by children,” AANA CEO, John Broome, said.

“We are moving to provide more explicit guidance to ensure that a problem doesn’t occur in the future. The Practice Note now explain that harmful gender stereotypes are unacceptable because they can perpetuate unconscious bias and rigid norms of femininity and masculinity that incorrectly shape what it means to be a girl, woman, boy or man."

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