AANA Code of Ethics - section 2.2 raises the bar for advertisers

The AANA’s amendment to section 2.2 of the Code of Ethics has been welcomed by the Ad Standards Community Panel.

In the first two months of the amended section’s operation, the Community Panel has considered seven advertisements under section 2.2.

Ad Standards research has demonstrated that the area of sexualised images is an area where the community has been more strict than the Community Panel. The amended section 2.2 enables the Community Panel to be more in line with the community view – although the amendment will not go far enough to please all members of the community.

Section 2.2 now states that advertising or marketing communications shall not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.

Importantly, the Practice Note to the Code also defines the terms, providing clarity for the Community Panel and advertisers:

Exploitative: Meaning (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.

Degrading: Lowering in character or quality a person or group of persons.

While ‘sexual appeal’ is not defined, the Community Panel has generally considered that mildly sexually suggestive poses, nudity or lack of or tight clothing can all result in sexual appeal being present.

Three of the recent section 2.2 cases were upheld by the Community Panel:

  • Portraying women as objects to possess or commodities is exploitative.
    • An online advertisement which showed a woman in a luxurious home choosing from a line of other women (NGU Real Estate – 0184/18).
  • Focussing on a body part where a focus on that body part bears no relevance to the product or service provided is exploitative.
    • A television advertisement which featured a man on a park bench watching two women walk past which included close up shots of their bodies (Moranbah Dental – 0213/18).
    • A billboard advertisement for shoes which showed a woman in a revealing leotard (Windsor Smith Pty Ltd – 0237/18).

The dismissed cases confirm that it is still acceptable to:

  • Depict women wearing only lingerie where the product advertised is lingerie and the pose is not sexually suggestive (PVH Brands Australia - 0215/18). The same applies for swimwear or clothing generally, although care should be taken not to place undue focus on particular body parts even in clothing (Pretty Little Thing - 0143/18).
  • Head and shoulder shots of women depicting various hair styles is not exploitative (De Nardis Hair Design - 0207/18).
  • Depicting a woman taking off her top to reveal lingerie, in conjunction with the tag ‘the take it all off sale’, can be acceptable where the overall impression is a light hearted double entendre and the woman is not presented as an object or with focus on particular parts of her body (Bras n’ Things - 0177/18).

The Windsor Smith advertisement is the most significant for fashion advertisers in particular to note. Arguably it is legitimate to show a woman’s legs when the product advertised is shoes. However in this case the depiction extended to the woman’s bottom. In this advertisement the woman’s bottom appeared uncovered as the leotard she was wearing was not prominent, and the overall impression was a significant focus on the woman’s mostly bare bottom. Advertisers should note this decision and take time to review their campaigns to ensure compliance with the revised section.

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