This information provides a general overview of Ad Standards Community Panel determinations on complaints about the portrayal of violence in advertising.
It is designed to assist the advertising industry, the self-regulatory body, consumers and others interested in understanding how the Community Panel has viewed violence in advertising where it has been the subject of complaints in the past.
It is not a “how to” guide and is not an exhaustive or extensive consideration of all relevant issues.
Relevant section of the AANA Code of Ethics
2.3 Advertisements shall not present or portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised.
A definition of “violence” is not set out in the Code of Ethics (the Code). This means that the ordinary English language meaning applies.
The Community Panel considers the perceptions of violence raised by the complainant and then takes into account additional and relevant factors that may include: previous Community Panel decisions; the type of product being marketed/advertised; the medium of the advertisement; and any other potentially mitigating circumstances.
The Community Panel has considered that the phenomenon of “violence” includes the consequences of violence (i.e. depiction of an injured person not just the image of them being hurt), feelings of violation, shock and fright, and may involve:
For the purposes of the Code, violence includes both actual depictions and suggested violence.
Section 2.3 of the Code requires that violence should not be depicted in advertising unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised. In some circumstances, the portrayal of violence may be deemed justified, such as in community awareness advertising or if the product being advertised contains violence e.g. computer games or films. The Community Panel has generally considered violence to be justified where it is mild in impact for the viewer, generally does not depict any person injured or in pain, and the action does not include aggression.
Level of community concern
Community concern about the portrayal of violence in advertising has been reflected in complaints to Ad Standards.
In 2018 violence accounted for 26.58 per cent of complaints to Ad Standards.
Ad Standards commissioned research into this issue and published a comprehensive research report on the matter in 2009.
For more information see the AANA Code of Ethics: Practice Note.