In a response to community pressure, the code has been improved to better regulate the way sexual appeal is used in advertising.
The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has updated its Code of Ethics to “better align with community expectations” around using sexual appeal in advertising.
Previously, the Code prohibited advertising which relied on “exploitative and degrading” sexual appeal – meaning a brand had to be found guilty of both exploitative and degrading to be banned.
In the past, this meant if an ad that was not deemed to fit within both categories, it was still allowed to be open to the public. For instance, The ASB dismissed complaints over General Pants "Fit in" ad campaign in various mediums because advertising must be both "exploitative and degrading" to be in breach of codes, and it was only deemed degrading.
The updated code now states an ad is in breach if it is “exploitative or degrading”, which now broadens the scope of ads the code can be applied.
“We want to make it absolutely clear that it is not acceptable to use sexual appeal either by depicting people as commodities or by focussing on their bodies when such a focus bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised” AANA’s new CEO John Broome said.
The CEO John Broome has said advertisements that the AANA deemed to use sexual appeal in a manner that was ‘exploitative’ alone should be prohibited, as there was no logical reason they had to be degrading as well.
“When the ASB conducted extensive community research recently to evaluate the extent to which Advertising Standards Board determinations aligned with broader community opinion, it emerged that clause 2.2 could be drafted in such a way to improve alignment with community standards.”
‘Exploitative’ has also been redefined under the code to ensure greater clarity for advertisers.
The term “exploitative” will now be defined by the AANA as:
“(a) taking advantage of the sexual appeal of a person, or group of people, by depicting them as commodities; or (b) focussing on their body parts where this bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised.”
The definition has been updated from the AANA’s previous interpretation, which was:
“clearly appearing to purposefully debase or abuse a person, or group of persons, for the enjoyment of others, and lacking moral, artistic or other values.”
“Degrading” remains unchanged in the eyes of the AANA:
“lowering in character or quality a person or group of people.”
Broome said the AANA had noticed and taken in account of community debate about the use of sexual appeal in popular culture and advertising. He also noted the changes of the Code of Ethics had the full support of bodies such as the Advertising Standards Bureau and the Outdoor Media Association (OMA).
“For the vast majority of advertisers, this change will not impact their modus operandi. The reality is that most already ensure that their advertising does not use sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading,” Broome said.
The changes are effective from 1 March 2018.