Updated rule on sexual appeal in advertising

Changes to the AANA Code of Ethics will see a stricter provision regarding the use of sexual appeal in advertising.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA)’s amendment to Section 2.2 of the Code of Ethics (the Code) means that the use of sexual appeal in an advertisement cannot be exploitative OR degrading - making a simpler test for the Ad Standards Board to apply when considering whether advertisements which have been complained about breach community standards.

“Advertisers need to be aware that the Code is being updated and the new wording means the Advertising Standards Board may take a stricter view of advertising which uses sexual appeal in an exploitative or degrading manner” said Ms Fiona Jolly, Chief Executive Officer of the ASB.

The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) will be accepting complaints under the new Code provisions from 1 March 2018 when the update comes into effect.

As of 1 March 2018, Section 2.2 of the Code will provide that:

Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not employ sexual appeal:

(a) where images of Minors, or people who appear to be Minors, are used; or

(b) in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.

“Advertisers need to ensure new campaign material is in line with the updated Code and does not use sexual appeal in an exploitative or degrading manner. Previously the Board would only find advertisements to breach the Code if images used were both exploitative and degrading, which was quite a high threshold,” Ms Jolly said. 

The definition of 'exploitative' has also been updated as of 1 March 2018, to:

(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 of 'degrading' will remain unchanged, as will the first part of the provision relating to the depiction of minors.

“Most advertisers already act responsibly and don’t include images in advertising which are exploitative or degrading to anyone. However ASB research indicates that there is still community concern around the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative or degrading manner in advertising material and therefore this change will go some way to meeting community expectations,” Ms Jolly said.

The new Code and Practice note is available on the AANA website.