Morrison Government must fix Ad Standards mess

Collective Shout calls on the Morrison Government to take urgent action to fix the broken advertising self-regulatory system following yet another example of its failure.

Collective Shout has documented the fundamental weaknesses and systemic flaws of the current system, including no power to enforce rulings when breaches are found and the absence of any fines or other penalties even for repeated non-compliance. For example, sex store Honey Birdette – known for its porn-themed portrayals of women - has been found in breach of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics 38 times.

Wicked Campers has also ignored findings of breaches of the Code in 80 cases for their slogans, many advocating sexual violence.

Now the Ad Standards Community Panel Chair has refused to even send a complaint for review by the Community Panel.

Collective Shout campaigner and Corporate Social Responsibility advisor, Lyn Swanson Kennedy, was advised that her complaint would not be referred to the Community Panel even though an earlier complaint about an almost identical portrayal of a woman was upheld by the Panel. “The Panel Chair said my complaint was of the type that had been ‘consistently dismissed’ by the Community Panel," Swanson Kennedy said. “But late last year, the same Panel upheld complaints against an almost identical ad noting: “the sheer material of the bottom half of the bodysuit is transparent and the woman’s pubic mound is clearly visible”.


Image: (Left) 'Luna', Upheld by Ad Standards Community Panel, November 2018; (Right) ‘Janet’, Dismissed without Panel Review, July 2019

This is arbitrary and inconsistent. “How can one person be allowed to make this decision? What is the point of the Community Panel if they don’t get to see the complaint and make a determination as a whole?” Swanson Kennedy said. “And what is the point of a ‘community standard’ when it can’t be upheld?”

This example further highlights the need for a new advertising co-regulatory system that has real penalties to stop the harmful objectification of women, instead of the current dead-end complaints process. We need a genuinely independent review system separate from the vested commercial interests of the advertising industry, with enforcement powers to deal with repeat offenders.                           

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