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Gender Stereotyping

The UK ASA recently published its report into gender stereotypes in advertising. The release gained a great deal of media coverage in New Zealand and raised questions about the rules applying to stereotyping in New Zealand's advertising codes.

Firstly, a fact check.
The UK ASA hasn't immediately banned advertising that includes stereotypical rules or characteristics. Rather, they will now develop new standards on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics. They will use the evidence in the report to clarify standards on ads that, for example, objectify or inappropriately sexualise women and girls, and ads that suggest it is acceptable for young women to be unhealthily-thin.

The new Code, however, won’t come into force until sometime in 2018.

ISBA (ANZA's equivalent in the UK) has stated in response that: "We recognise that unequal gender outcomes are harmful and arise out of a complex series of social, political and economic factors including stereotyping. It is good to see the ASA taking a proactive position on this important issue - one which many members are already addressing (read more). We hope and expect that the standards that CAP issues are clear, consistent and proportionate, taking into account the significant element of subjectivity in this area".

Here in New Zealand there are already robust rules regarding stereotyping within the ASA Code. Examples of complaints to the ASA about stereotypes are included in the ASA's annual report in the most complained about advertisements. One example is the 2 Cheap Car ad, which was taken off air by the advertiser after complaints.

Nonetheless, the NZ Code of Ethics is currently being reviewed, and it would be appropriate that the UK report be considered as part of that review. Here at ANZA we would welcome feedback on the UK findings and your views on the extent to which the current ASA Code should (if at all) be strengthened.

Avoiding Ad Avoidance

Great advertising provokes a reaction.

However, audiences do not always respond favourably to all ads. It’s interesting to see that where ads appear is now, in some ways, causing more outrage than the ideas expressed in the advertising.

The recent furore over a motor vehicle ad appearing during live coverage of an All Blacks test match, inserted between the haka and kick-off, became a social media storm. The response was indicative of growing consumer frustration with negative ad experiences.

We see that poor digital ad experiences are fueling growth (30% annually) in the use of online ad blockers. In response, the International Coalition for Better Ads has urged publishers and advertisers to recognise and address that risk collaboratively.

How can we work together to create positive change?

As an industry, we should encourage responsible advertising messages. But we also need to ensure we do not lose important media opportunities by frustrating consumers to the point of actively avoiding ads. Our ability to appropriately interrupt and effectively engage is not without responsibility.

Advertising Pays

Too often, advertising is seen as the scapegoat for society’s ills. But as an industry we rarely reflect on the significant economic and social benefit provided by the advertising sector.

For that reason, ANZA welcomes the newly published Deloitte report “Advertising Pays” created for the Communications Council, which demonstrates advertising is a significant driver of economic growth contributing around $6 billion to the New Zealand economy -- or 2.4% of GDP per year.

The report also shows that in addition to economic benefits, advertising is an established and proven influencer of audience behaviour -- as has been well demonstrated in the likes of the Effie Awards.

This report will be an important resource to engage with Government and NGOs on advertising regulation to help them better understand that regulations come at a cost to society as well as business.

Brand safety

A common gripe from agencies is that clients get too picky about creative development.

But do we give the same attention to ad placement and brand safety? Would you want your ad appearing next to content from terrorists, pornographers or hate messaging? The answer is obvious but a recent investigation by the Times in the UK found exactly that occurring for a number of household brands.

Extreme? Perhaps, but the digital ecosystem is littered with examples of inappropriate ad placement. In the last week we have seen a number of the world’s largest advertisers pull advertising from YouTube, demanding that the platform’s owner, Google, needs to do more to protect brand integrity.

But advertisers have an equal responsibility with publishers to take steps to ensure their brands are well protected. This is is not just a commercial issue, it is a governance one - taking the necessary steps for brand reputation. And every CEO and Board should ensure it is on their agenda.

“Licensed like pubs” and “ad bans” what next?

Posted: 20th October 2014 By: Lindsay Mouat

A recent article has claimed that the growing obesity crisis amongst children can only be tackled by a national government task force, as only “coordinated action at the highest level” can inspire change. This in turn called for the usual policy favourites, including a total ban on all junk food TV advertising until after 9 pm. But placed alongside is a new proposition that “fast food outlets should be licensed like pubs”. In the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious.”

The theme that advertising should be blamed for obesity is not a new one amongst those who seek to place further restrictions on the freedom to advertise. Such claims overlook that very few complaints are made to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board concerning advertising to young people, nor of advertising food and non-alcoholic beverages. This is hardly surprising because industry works responsibly to comply with the ASA Codes – of which include separate, strict codes for advertising food to children. 

It’s important to acknowledge that advertisers have very recently revisited and enhanced regulations considering children. Just last month members of the International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA) announced further regulations concerning food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing to children, which shows just how forward thinking advertisers are in protecting children’s interests.

It is disappointing that public health lobbyists continue to look to regulation, to bans and taxes as the correct way to tackle obesity amongst both children and adults rather than addressing the more challenging, but ultimately more effective tools of better nutritional education, positive encouragement of better-for-you food choices and more exercise.

Advertising benefits us all

Posted: 13th October 2014  By: Lindsay Mouat

Too often the whipping boy of politicians and advocacy groups, advertising makes an important and generally overlooked contribution to both social and economic good in the community.

We are, of course, familiar with the benefits of public good campaigns targeting, for example, domestic violence or reducing drink driving with ads such as “Ghost Chips”. And the likes of the “Journal” campaign has done much to raise awareness and reduce negative perceptions around depression.

Brands too can have a strong voice in raising awareness or encouraging the better behaviour in society.  Campaigns such as these are highly effective in terms of targeting and educating, encouraging and nudging behavioural change with a particular audience – something that may otherwise difficult to do. 

Ronald McDonald was a strong advocate in encouraging children to use seat belts (who in turn reminded their elders). Alcohol brands can talk to drinkers about responsible behaviour in a way that doesn’t lecture. In the UK, Procter and Gamble’s Ariel detergent ran a campaign which resulted in consumers markedly reducing their energy use by encouraging consumers to wash their clothes at a lower temperature without compromising washing results. 

But the benefits of advertising go beyond advocacy. Advertising increases competition, stimulating brands to improve product quality, usefulness and value for money.  In the US, when bans on advertising optical services were lifted in some states, the prices of glasses fell by 30 – 40%, proving that advertising also helps reduce the cost for the consumer. 

In helping companies succeed, advertising plays a key role in a dynamic economy - successful companies create more jobs, pay more tax and contribute directly to economic growth.

And of course advertising makes a huge contribution in funding our media, programming, news as well as extending into sponsorship, vital in supporting community sports teams, cultural events and aspiring artists and sports people.

Advertising plays a vital role in today's society.  ANZA works to ensure that policy discussions which may impact marketing communications fully take into account the value of advertising for the economy, society and consumers.

Alcohol Sponsorship: Cutting through the mistruths

Posted: 29th September 2014  By: Lindsay Mouat

Alcohol brands do not sponsor sport and other events to encourage audiences to consume more.

Advocates who point the finger at alcohol sponsorship are pushing an argument that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and lacks an understanding of what sponsorship can and can’t achieve.  Sponsorship is about many things - it allows a brand to be seen, to be recognised, to connect with an adult audience and encourage brand choice over alternatives, particularly encouraging trading up to higher priced brands. 

At events themselves, where pourage rights exist, there is also an economic element over competitors.  Through sponsorship brands are simply positioning themselves in the eyes of consumers against competitors. But sponsorship won’t increase total alcohol consumption. Despite the $ invested we see a continuing decline in per capita consumption.

Forgotten in the criticism of sponsorships (and advertising) is the fact that alcohol isn’t actually a problem for the vast majority of New Zealanders, who enjoy a beer, wine or spirits responsibly.  Forgotten too is that sponsorship (and advertising) in this country is already highly regulated, particularly with regard to appeal to young people with sponsorship messages subject to the ‘heroes of the young’ provisions of the ASA’s Codes.

We should be concerned about alcohol-related harm and binge drinking in this country, but sponsorship bans won’t solve this. One look no further than France, where the oft-cited Loi Evin regulation bans sponsorship, to see that country has a large and growing rate of alcohol-related harm. As Mike Hosking said in a recent article: “All that carnage down Queen Street on a Saturday morning, all those boozed teens vomiting and causing chaos, are they going to be at home asleep because they didn’t mix their Red Bull with their vodka because Red Bull doesn’t sponsor Formula One anymore?” 

Habit or Addiction - There is a Difference

Posted: 23rd September 2014  By: Lindsay Mouat

Those who lobby against sugar, alcohol and other consumer products tend to use a common refrain- it’s addictive therefore it’s bad.  But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that an addiction is not the same as a habit, or a bad habit.  Addiction is defined as a “habitual psychological and physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one’s voluntary control” whereas a habit is defined as “an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary."

Claiming something to be addictive when it is actually habitual is wrong on many fronts. It undermines the seriousness of real addiction to drugs such as narcotics and alcohol. And it leads to misplaced, knee-jerk demands for legislation and regulation that fail to properly consider the issue to be solved.

Can we really be addicted to things such as shopping, junk food and sugary drinks? Most would rationalise in saying that the majority who overindulge don’t have zero control; they do it because it’s become part of their lifestyle, it’s a habit, and sometimes a bad habit.  But it is a habit not an addiction. 

One example of the many claims to addiction rather than habit is from Dr. Robert Lustig who argues: “Sugar can overload the brain’s reward system and lead to strong cravings and loss of control.  Sugar can, in other words, become an addiction.”Vox.com. You can literally replace the word “sugar” in the quoted sentence with almost anything: Facebook, shopping, exercise, drugs, alcohol.  And that’s the framing that Lustig and others intend - to have anything they consider bad for us to be treated like tobacco.

Although eating less healthy food options can result in powerful transmitters in the brain, so does almost every other “healthy” food and drink that we consume.  It can be argued that using the term “addiction” in this context not only undermines the seriousness of real addiction, it leads to the bizarre conclusion that we are addicted to everything- even water because of the pleasure it gives us when we are thirsty.

Is it really appropriate to restrict consumer freedom and choice purely because some of us have a bad habit?

Childhood obesity: ad ban is the least effective strategy

Posted: 10th September 2014  By: Lindsay Mouat

Elections bring out all sorts of political agenda so it’s no surprise that we are seeing renewed calls for bans on food advertising and marketing generally, particularly in relation to children.  Unfortunately these demands reflect an ideology rather than a willingness to objectively consider the facts on the real reasons some children become obese.  Yet another recent study has provided evidence that implementing an ad ban is the least effective strategy in fighting childhood obesity.

In an academic article recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that a policy banning fast food advertising to children would have the least impact on reducing obesity levels among children and adolescents aged 6-18.  Among children aged 6-12, academics found that after-school physical activity programmes would reduce obesity the most.

This comes as no surprise due to the fact that advertising is already hugely self-regulated in recognition of the special care that is required when advertising to children.  In New Zealand, advertising of food products on television in children's time zones represents just 6% of advertising, and all ads comply with nutritional requirements for that time zone.  This doesn’t fit the public health narrative but the reality is that fears surrounding advertising food and beverages to children are grossly overplayed, and based on little to no substantive evidence.

Obesity is caused by a complex multiplicity of factors that can only be addressed holistically, not by grasping for silver bullets. It needs a collaborative approach which includes, not excludes the food industry.  


New World toys are making kids fat – give me strength

Posted: 26th August 2014  By: Lindsay Mouat

We are used to seeing some bizarre attacks on the food industry but Gareth Morgan’s latest claim that supermarket chain New World is "brainwashing" children with its Little Shop toys surely takes the cake.  Can little toys, representative of the everyday products found in a supermarket, really be a cause for children overindulging in treat foods, and under indulging in exercise? This is yet another case of a misinformed attack on the food industry.

Parents should be asking why Mr Morgan is assuming they lack the ability to make good decisions regarding their child’s diet and lifestyle.  Personally I do not think mini-shaped cash registers, meat, vegetables, chocolate etc. can be turning kids into “fat zombie consumers.”

Morgan said “Governments had…allowed a loophole through which food companies could advertise directly to children.”  These comments ignore the reality that advertisers are required to take special care when advertising to children;the Advertising Standard Authority’s Codes are a major contribution to protecting children and helping parents.  If anything promotions such as ‘Little Shop’ are a chance for educating children on healthy food choices.

As Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue has said, when New World previously had Little Shop items, they were used to teach children about healthy eating, maths and other subjects. 

"This sort of positive play and education for children is a good thing and we are very proud of our Little Shop promotion.

"[The post] has primarily pulled out products which we would consider either treats or occasional foods or to be used in small quantities, and we believe are not representative of the overall product selection included in Little Shop," she said.

In ANZA’s view, the claims by Mr. Morgan represent a prime example of the failure of public health advocates to address the real drivers of obesity, in particular declining physical activity and nutritional literacy. It’s so much easier to blame industry.

- Lindsay Mouat

I weep at the standard of what passes for “academic research” these days, published unquestioned by media!

Posted: 26th August 2014   By: Lindsay Mouat

A recent article on stuff.co.nz claimed new research has proved that children’s magazines are exposing young people to unhealthy food marketing, potentially contributing to childhood obesity.  

The research is flawed on so many levels. According to the Auckland University researcher – Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere, the "kids" magazines were Girlfriend, Crème and Dolly - all teen targeted magazines. I’m thinking their editors will be surprised at their readership reclassification. 

Advertising found in these three teens mags were compared to that found in Woman’s Day, Woman’s Weekly and SkyTV’s SkyWatch. A meaningless comparison showing a lack of understanding of readership profiles. Food advertising in a magazine such as NZWW will of course be more varied given the magazine's appeal to household shoppers from age 25 to retirement years. The comparison is naive. Would we expect to see the same advertising in "Home & Away" as in "Meet the Midwife"? Of course not.

And the research runs the tired and emotive "unhealthy food" line which totally ignores that it is the total diet not individual foods or beverages which are important.

It ignores too the editorial content in magazines. No surprise then that one of the magazines – Girlfriend, hit back saying:

“We run recipes and the focus is on healthy eating. We have run articles around sugar and the negative effects of eating sugary things. We have a mind body life section which promotes exercise, well being and, again, healthy eating and healthy recipes,” said Rebecca Blithe, editor of Girlfriend magazine. While things like chocolate may make up a small portion of giveaways, the magazine’s main content is around a healthy lifestyle. The predominant message is healthy eating, exercise, and a holistic approach to your health and well being,” said editor, Rebecca Blithe.

It’s unfortunate that poor research, with an inbuilt bias, is posted by media with no questions asked or critique of such studies.

- Lindsay Mouat

Councils should stick to their knitting

Posted: Friday 22nd August  By: Lindsay Mouat


In a somewhat extraordinary move, Christchurch Council now claims to be the arbiter of what should and shouldn't be advertised.

Stuff reports that the city council has called for tighter restrictions on the marketing of alcohol, and has slated supermarkets for the way they promote the product. Further, it has given its approval for Mayor Lianne Dalziel to become the first mayor in New Zealand to sign the Call for Action on Alcohol statement, which asks the incoming government to introduce new laws to phase out alcohol advertising and sponsorship, and increase the price of alcohol through the introduction of minimum unit prices and higher taxes.

Having failed to achieve their objectives through Central Government, Alcohol Action are now turning to our territorial authorities to take control of citizens lives. This follows previous calls in Auckland by public health activists to have advertising and sponsorship of unhealthy foods banned on Council property a move that would have ended the beloved Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park.

The Christchurch Council vote (only Cr Pauline Cotter had the good sense to vote against the statement) followed some quite extraordinary comments. Cr Paul Lonsdale said the root of the problem was that supermarkets had normalised alcohol. "We have to think of some way to hinder their trade." Cr Lonsdale ignores completely the significant restrictions now in place from the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

Meanwhile Cr Phil Clearwater said the combination of interventions proposed by Alcohol Action would help change the drinking culture in New Zealand and rejected any suggestion that it was a move towards a nanny state."This is about changing our culture for the good of our people," he said. Since when has it been the role of councillors to change the culture of their ratepayers?

ANZA would have thought that the good people of Christchurch were hoping their Councillors would be focusing on more critical issues than alcohol marketing.

- Lindsay Mouat


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