Facebook to help fund ad industry self-regulation

AANA says Facebook's decision to sign-up to the self-funding system is an important milestone in building its future sustainability as a scheme

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has welcomed Facebook’s decision to help fund advertising’s self-regulation process, noting it as an important milestone for the industry.

Facebook this week formally joined the system funding the operating of the advertising self-regulatory system, a group which includes operations of Ad Standards. Under the scheme, advertisers supporting the self-regulatory system voluntarily pay a small level of media spend collected on their behalf by members of the Media Federation of Australia (MFA).

AANA CEO, John Broome, said the decision is an important milestone in the evolution of the self-regulatory system.

“When the AANA set-up the self-regulatory system over 20 years ago, virtually all advertising was in traditional media and made via media buying agencies,” Broome commented. “However, in recent years there has been a growing trend for advertisers to pay major publishers and digital platforms directly, with the unintended consequence of effectively bypassing the current collection mechanism. At the same time, increasing migration to digital has led to much more advertising content and hence a greater workload for Ad Standards.”

Broome said the system will now be funded by a combination of the traditional levy system operated by the MFA, and direct funding from digital publishers and major media outlets.

“Facebook’s move to directly fund the self-regulatory system will help underpin its future financial sustainability,” Broome said.

Facebook A/NZ managing director and VP, Will Easton, saw a fully functioning self-regulatory system in the interests of all parties across the advertising chain.

“Australia’s self-regulatory system provides the public with a highly efficient and effective complaints handling service that is 100 per cent funded by industry. We are committed to ensuring we plan an appropriate role in ensuring its funding now and in the future,” he said.

Broome said the AANA is now in discussions with other major digital platforms and media players on this new funding approach and said things were progressing “very well”.

“I am confident we will continue to evolve our funding model so that we maintain a world class self-regulatory system that meets the Australian community’s expectations,” he added.

Another step taken this year by Ad Standards towards evolving the regulatory environment around Australia’s ever-more complex and digitally fuelled advertising ecosystem was the launch of a new Code of Ethics in 1 February 2021.

The updated code includes several key changes such as an obligation to avoid harm to consumers and society and prohibit harmful gender stereotype, focusing on body parts not relevant to the product or service being advertised, and overtly sexual images in outdoor advertising or shop front windows. 

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

The new code applies to all advertising in Australia and followed wide-ranging public consultation as well as 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 includes several key changes such as an obligation to avoid harm to consumers and society and prohibit harmful gender stereotype, that focus on body parts not relevant to the product or service being advertised, and overtly sexual images in outdoor advertising or shop front windows. 

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

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