Discrimination or vilification

This information provides a general overview of Ad Standards Community Panel determinations on complaints about discrimination and vilification in advertising.

It is designed to assist the advertising industry, the self-regulatory body, consumers and others interested in ensuring that advertising does not breach the AANA Code of Ethics or community standards in relation to matters of discrimination and vilification and that such advertising is positive, responsible, suitable for general viewing and contributes to the elimination of systemic discrimination and vilification.

It is not a “how to” guide, nor does it cover all situations which require care in understanding elements of discrimination and vilification.


Relevant section of the AANA Code of Ethics

2.1 Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not portray people or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.



Discrimination:  Acts with inequity, bigotry or intolerance or gives unfair, unfavourable or less favourable treatment to one person or a group because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, sexual preference, religion, disability and/or political belief. 

Vilification: Humiliates, intimidates, and incites hatred towards, contempt for, or ridicule of one person or a group of people because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, sexual preference, religion, disability and/or political belief.

Race: Viewed broadly this term includes colour, descent or ancestry, ethnicity, nationality, and includes for example ideas of ethnicity covering people of Jewish or Muslim origin.

Ethnicity: Those with a common social identity as a result of customs, traditions and belief about historic origins.

Nationality: People belonging to a particular nation either by birth, origin or naturalisation. This can change over time, so a person born in the United States who becomes a citizen of Australia by marriage may describe their nationality as both Australian and American.

Gender: Male or female characteristics.

Age: Based on a person’s chronological age (i.e. the date they were born) and not on a person’s biological age (i.e. physical age a person may exhibit).

Sexual preference: Includes homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.

Religion: A person’s belief or non-belief about a god or the existence or non-existence of a god or gods.

Disability: A current, past or potential physical, intellectual, psychiatric, or sensory illness, disease, disorder, malfunction, malformation, disfigurement or impairment, including mental illness.

Political belief: Support for or opposition of a particular political party or ideology.


Level of community concern

Community concern about discrimination and vilification in advertising has been reflected in complaints to Ad Standards.

In 2020 discrimination and vilification accounted for 15.43 per cent of complaints to Ad Standards.


Further information

For more information see the AANA Code of Ethics: Practice Note.