This information provides a general overview of Board determinations on complaints about advertising which employs sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading of any individual or group of individuals.

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 the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative and degrading manner, and
  • is positive, responsible, suitable for general viewing and contributes to the elimination of the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative and degrading manner.

It is not a “how-to” guide, nor does it cover all situations which require care in understanding elements of sexual appeal in an exploitative and degrading manner.

Relevant section of the AANA Code of Ethics

2.2 Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading of any individual or group of people

Definitions

Sexual appeal: This term is undefined. The Board considers sexually appealing material would include images such as a suggestion of sex, some nudity, a sexual pose or tight clothing.

Exploitative: Clearly appearing to purposefully debase or abuse a person, or group of persons, for the enjoyment of others, and lacking moral, artistic or other values.

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

Level of community concern

Community concern about the use of sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading in advertising has been reflected in complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau. Since the introduction of the exploitative and degrading Code Section in 2012, complaint percentages have ranged from 13.98 per cent in 2012 to a low in 2015 of 4.6 per cent.

In 2013 the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) commissioned research to explore community perceptions about the use of sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and degrading in advertising. Research findings suggest:

  • community opinions and Board decisions were aligned in nine of the 12 advertisements tested during the quantitative stage, with mixed community reactions for the remaining three.
  • factors considered by the community in determining advertisement acceptability included the medium in which the advertisement appeared, audience restrictions and relevance of the imagery to the product or service being advertised.
  • particular concern about images which are able to be viewed by children in the public domain such as billboards, as opposed to other media forms such as internet where the audience may be restricted.
  • concerns about advertisements depicting actors, particularly women, who appear to be under 18 years of age.
  • the use of sexual appeal in advertising to be unacceptable when advertisements were able to be viewed by children, if the advertisement showed sexual acts, if the product was aimed at younger people, children or families, and if there was no direct relevance to the product being advertised.

See also: Exploitative and degrading: determination summary