What is advertising self-regulation?

Self-regulation encourages the advertising industry (advertisers, agencies and media) to take responsibility to ensure advertising communications to consumers is legal, decent and honest and prepared with a sense of social responsibility to the consumer and society as a whole, and with due respect to the rules of fair competition.

There are a number of incentives for doing so. Most advertisers do not want to deliberately mislead or offend current or potential customers. They understand the importance of responsible advertising of restricted products and engage with pre-vetting processes and code-compliance prior to the release / publication of advertising. If consumers trust advertising, it is more effective.

Advertising Standards Authority

Advertising in New Zealand is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by way of its Advertising Codes of Practice and its complaints process, working within the legal framework provided by a number of Acts and Regulations that restrict advertising. A number of government agencies that administer legislation are therefore senior jurisdictions of the ASA.

Advertising self-regulation also works best alongside a legislative framework. The two complement each other, to produce a result which neither could achieve on its own. The law lays down broad principles, e.g. that advertising should not be misleading, while self-regulatory codes, because of their greater flexibility and the fact that they are interpreted in spirit as well as the letter, can deal quickly and efficiently with the detail of individual advertisements. In New Zealand there are about 50 different pieces of legislation that restrict advertising in some way.

What are the benefits of advertising self-regulation?

Self-regulation works for the public by avoiding the complexities and delays of a judicial process. Self-regulation offers consumers a quick, uncomplicated, easily-accessible method which, because it is funded by the advertising industry, is a no-cost means of having their complaints handled.

It can apply immediate sanctions by publishing Complaints Board decisions and by requiring media to immediately withdraw any advertisement for which a complaint has been upheld by the Complaints Board. With an average time of dealing with complaints of around 13 days, the ASA’s complaints process is substantially quicker than usual judicial process.

Self-regulation is also flexible enough to adapt promptly to changing societal views as well as new advertising media.

New Zealand’s model of advertising self-regulation is internationally recognised as the preferred model for both public and industry alike.