ADVERTISING STANDARDS BOARD
Until the 1970s, the regulation of Australian advertising standards regulation was conducted on an ad hoc basis. The creation of Advertising Standards Council, and later the Advertising Standards Board, demonstrated a formal commitment to establishing and maintaining community standards in advertising that remained self-governed.
Funded by the Media Council of Australia (MCA), the Australian Advertising Standards Advisory Authority was established in 1973 as a response to a perceived rise in consumer dissatisfaction. Renamed the Advertising Standards Council (ASC) shortly afterwards, it received public and industry complaints about advertisements, and determined whether the offending advertisements breached the MCA’s Advertising Code of Ethics. Councillors were evenly divided between representatives from industry and the community. The ASC was nevertheless criticised for its dismissal of complaints. However, its collapse in 1996 followed the MCA’s decision to disband itself in the face of an inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) created the Advertising Standards Bureau to fill this gap. It would be governed by the AANA’s Code of Ethics. From January 1998, public complaints were handled by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB), while the Advertising Claims Board handled industry grievances. The ASB’s composition was more representative of the community than that of its predecessor, while periodic advertising campaigns actively encouraged audiences to take a stance on offensive advertisements.
Its public presence was further enhanced by the launch of a website that clearly outlined the ASB’s remit and the complaints procedure, and provided access to each case report. In its first decade, the ASB received an average of 2388 complaints per annum. The primary issues attracting complaint have been discrimination/ vilification, sex/sexuality/nudity, health and safety, and violence. Decisions concerning controversial advertisements frequently attract media attention and debate.
REF: R. Crawford and R. Spence-Stone, ‘Upholding Whose Values? Australia’s Advertising Standards Bodies, 1974–2009’, Jnl of Historical Research in Marketing, 4(2) (2012).