The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics updates come into effect today, with tighter regulation on "overtly sexual" advertising content. While we welcome some of these changes, we still have serious reservations about their overall effectiveness given the code is voluntary with no powers of enforcement or penalties for non-compliance.
Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper was quoted in Mumbrella on the updates to the AANA Code.
Speaking to Mumbrella, Collective Shout campaign manager, Caitlin Roper, said while the changes to the Code of Ethics represent positive change, the group still had reservations about how effective it would be, seeing as it is a voluntary code which struggles to enforce penalties on those which infringe upon it.
“The AANA code reflects an inconsistent and harmful approach to overtly sexualised images. According to the AANA, the changes to the Code of Ethics are in response to increasing community concern about the sexualisation of women in advertising and the harms to children from exposure to sexualised images,” Roper said.
“On the one hand, they say that overtly sexual images are not appropriate in outdoor advertising and shop front windows, where they will be in view of children, but go on to excuse these same overtly sexual images in full view of children as long as they are ‘relevant to the product’. This qualifying statement renders everything that comes before it meaningless. Essentially it means that ‘overtly sexual’ content, including women in sheer lingerie, with exposed breasts, buttocks and genitals, posed with BDSM paraphernalia, becomes appropriate children’s viewing as long as it is ‘relevant to the product’.
“But children are harmed by exposure to sexualised, sexually objectifying and pornified content regardless of whether this imagery is ‘relevant to the product’. The various negative impacts on children from sexualisation are well documented in the research, yet the updated AANA code continues to facilitate kids’ exposure to harmful sexualised material by justifying it in these cases.”
Roper also pointed towards the number of upheld cases against lingerie brand Honey Birdette, which catches attention for its provocative advertising in its store-fronts and often does not comply with the Community Panel’s rulings.
“If the code cannot be enforced, tweaking it is unlikely to accomplish very much. What will change for serial offenders like Honey Birdette, who continually flout the code and refuse to abide by Ad Standards rulings? Ad Standards has considered complaints against more than a hundred different Honey Birdette ads, upholding roughly half, but the sex store continues to display porn and BDSM themed ads in their shopfront windows with no repercussions,” she said.