Angus McKay has heard your messages loud and clear. Thanks to you, all 700 7-Eleven stores have been instructed to remove pornographic Picture and People magazines from their stores.
In his reply to Collective Shout on Sep 3 7-Eleven CEO Angus McKay stated:
Once the nature of these magazines was brought to our attention, before your organisation contacted me, we made a stock recommendation change. I would acknowledge we should have been more across the nature of these magazines and taken action earlier. That said, once the team were made aware of the material they acted and changed our recommended range quickly.
I have personally written to all franchisees and store managers asking for the removal of these magazines. The note makes my, and the company’s, view on these magazines very clear.
Each store in our network is visited by a member of our operations team. They have been instructed to follow through on my instructions as a priority.
I have been a client of Australian Ethical for a number of years now. I made the conscious choice to switch super funds in an effort to invest more responsibly. Their website says "We invest in companies to have a positive impact on the planet, people and animals. We agitate for change and that means taking a stance." This sounded great and seemed aligned to my values.
Until I realised that Australian Ethical invested in property. And this included Lendlease Group and Stockland who facilitate Honey Birdette's harmful hyper-sexualised advertising. The very advertising I have been campaigning against for years. And just so we are clear this is the type of advertising that Honey Birdette are pushing in the public domain to our kids. This is what Lendlease Group and Stockland are facilitating. This is what Australian Ethical are investing in. This is what my superannuation is funding.
Australian Ethical replied:
"We agree the advertising from Honey Birdette is concerning. They have breached the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics 30 times since 2012 & shown general disregard toward compliance with the Code."
"We are engaging with Lendlease & Stocklands asking them to require Honey Birdette to comply with the Code for all advertising within their shopping centres."
"We invest in Lendlease because they develop & manage a range of properties including schools & hospitals & are considered a sector leader in sustainability. They’re also one of the few companies in the industry to target large scale urban regeneration projects."
"Like all companies Lendlease has negative impacts which we take into account in our ethics assessment. But not every negative will mean a company is automatically ruled out for investment & in some cases we can have more of an impact engaging with them."
"We exclude over 60% of the ASX top 200 companies. The word ethical doesn't mean every company we invest in is perfect (in our experience perfect companies are rare). We look at the positives and negatives to assess if a company is, overall, aligned with our Ethical Charter."
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Refuses to submit complaints re porn styled image for review
Over many years, Collective Shout has drawn attention to the problems of our self-regulated advertising system. Recent experiences have caused us to focus on one particular stage of the complaints process: triage. At triage, the Ad Standards Community Panel Chair reviews a complaint and either dismisses it (effectively denying the complaint Panel review), or forwards it to the Panel for consideration and a ruling.
A week after lodging complaints about Honey Birdette’s recent Janet bodysuit ads and receiving auto-reply emails confirming receipt of my complaints, I received another email from Ad Standards advising that while the images were of concern to me, the Community Panel Chair - considered that they featured “women in lingerie” and were to be of the type of ads that have been “consistently dismissed” by the Community Panel. Accordingly, complaints against the Janet bodysuit ads would not be forwarded to the Community Panel for review.
But late last year, the Ad Standards Community Panel upheld complaints against an almost identical ad, noting that:
“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
I raised this with Ad Standards and asked how the Janet bodysuit images that were stylistically identical to the Luna ad could be denied Panel review.
Another reply from Ad Standards ensued. It stated that while Ad Standards takes prior rulings into account, in the case of Janet, Luna was “not as relevant as it is a still image which allows more focus on the details of the image. In this instance the fast moving montage video does not allow for the same focus.”
The Chair decided that flashing pubic mounds displayed in a montage of images (images that are indistinguishable from one that breached Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics in November 2018) were neither “overtly sexualised”, nor did they comprise “inappropriate nudity”. In essence, they single-handedly determined that ad for the Janet bodysuit was (to use Ad Standards’ language) “appropriate for the broad audience that includes children”.
This solo-made determination raises several questions.
- Where is the evidence that a montage doesn’t allow for the same focus as a still image?
- Does the Chair have current data on the time required to cognitively process a viewed pubic mound?
- Why were the facts that several different images were used in sequence in the Janet bodysuit ad, and that the video paused for several seconds on the final image used as grounds for denying the ad Panel review, when taken as a whole the Janet bodysuit ad gave viewers plenty of time to make out features contained within?
- Is it plausible that the bright, flashy medium and fast pace at which images were rotated heightened - not lessened - a person’s focus on the images?
- And what about Honey Birdette’s new mode of video montage advertising, where images are shown on rotation at varying speeds?
- Will Honey Birdette ads here onwards escape Panel scrutiny because the Chair thinks that montage videos don’t allow for the same focus as still images and are therefore appropriate for viewing by an all-age audience - even if pubic mounds are visible?
- Would Luna have met the same fate had it been shown as a flashy sequence of still images rather than a single, still-shot?
Still, the Chair rules. There’s no getting around them. So, while Ad Standards boasts a diverse Community Panel, the Panel’s value is lessened by the sheer fact that at times, members of the public are unable to access it. Do Panel members know about these cases that the Chair intercepts? Are triaged ads ever audited or given account for by other people?
And how does Ad Standards use the data on pre-Panel review dismissals? Do these numbers add to their aggregate data on compliance and help boost their defense of self-regulation?
Moreover, do I detect an air of gaslighting in Ad Standards’ correspondence? They explained that when assessing a complaint under the “Consistently Dismissed” procedure, the Chair considers what a “reasonable member of the community would take from the advertisement”. Are they insinuating that I - and other complainants who have their complaints dismissed prior to Panel Review - are not “reasonable” members of the community? This is concerning. Perhaps it’s a means of discouraging us from lodging complaints in the future? I was determined to get a proper explanation of why my complaint against Janet was denied Panel Review while complaints against Luna were upheld, so I pursued communication with Ad Standards. Our inkling is that many people simply accept the Chair’s kibosh on their complaints without rebuttal. It’s complicated enough to go through the basic complaints process. Who, especially following advice that she is out of step with “reasonable” people, wants to stick her neck out further and attempt to defend her original complaint? And if Ad Standards thought I was unreasonable last time I complained, won’t they think the same next time? Why bother lodging any more complaints? Gaslighting accomplished.
Of course, a triage process is needed. But a triage process that depends on the sensibilities of one person and that provides no avenue for challenge is neither robust nor fair. I accept Ad Standards’ assertion - the Community Panel “can’t possibly review every complaint”. Ad Standards must meter its resources. But when denial of Panel Review demonstrates arbitrariness and inconsistency, and when it is based on refutable claims, members of the public should be able to raise a challenge.
The lunacy of Luna vs Janet demonstrates the need for a new regulatory system for our ad industry - one that stops the harmful, sexploitative advertising activities of repeat offenders like Honey Birdette and protects the public from dead-end complaints processes.
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- Sign the petition https://www.change.org/p/stop-allowing-honey-birdette-using-porn-style-advertising-in-your-family-friendly-shopping-centres
- Share the petition link with your friends and family members
- Email the shopping centre company leaders directly and ask them to once and for all put a stop to Honey Birdette’s public displays of porn-style ads in your community (you can find their contact details here)
The objectification of women is so unremarkable in advertising and popular culture that it’s sometimes hard to envisage what an alternative might look like. Is it possible to advertise lingerie or swimwear without objectifying women, we are asked? Is objectification in the amount of flesh revealed, or is it more than that? Where is the line between women being merely attractive and objectified?Read more