This information provides a general overview of Ad Standards Community Panel determinations on complaints about advertising which employs sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or 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 or degrading manner, and
  • is positive, responsible, suitable for general viewing and contributes to the elimination of the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative or 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 or degrading manner.

Relevant section of the AANA Code of Ethics

2.2 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.

Definitions

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

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.

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 Ad Standards. 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 Ad Standards 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 Community Panel 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 or degrading: determination summary