Advertising Self-Regulation Under Threat

12:07 PM, 10 December 2018

Maintaining our advertising freedoms and improving our standards

It's been a big year for advertisers both here in New Zealand and around the world.

The introduction of GDPR in Europe has affected data management around the globe (which will likely impact our own privacy legislation in 2019) highlighted by the need for better data transparency At a local level we have worked with industry partners trans-Tasman to develop the Digital Advertising Practices Guide to raise digital standards across the ecosystem.

Media Transparency continues to be top-of-mind. If you haven't reviewed your Media Agency Contract in the last 12 months we urge you to make it a priority - the Media Agency Contract Guidance is a great place to start.

And we have joined the call for marketers and business leaders to reconsider the impact of tactical sales-led advertising on long-term growth and profitability. Why aren't we doing this? This guide How long term brand building drives profitability is the perfect holiday reading to share with your Board and C-suite.

As the year comes to a close, there is one topic that we believe is important to highlight - the risk of new advertising regulation here in New Zealand.

While it hasn't necessarily felt that way, the advertising sector has experienced a relatively benign period of regulatory intervention in recent years. That is potentially changing. And quickly.

Renewed calls for restrictions, if not complete bans on advertising of occasional food and beverages, alcohol and therapeutic products have heightened, and it appears the Government is listening to these voices.

The blame game

Advertising, by its very nature is under constant scrutiny. As the public face of our brands and businesses, critics blame advertising for many of society's issues, claiming it:

  • Exploits children and young people
  • Fuels obesity
  • Targets the vulnerable
  • Misuses data
  • Encourages alcohol and gaming abuse
These claims make for powerful headlines, but are unreasonable. Nonetheless, it is apparent that these voices are increasingly being listened to in the corridors of power.

Despite the fact that advertising self-regulation (via the ASA's Codes) has generally worked well for both advertisers and the public, we remain an easy target for those wanting to find blame for a range of social issues.

This should be of concern to all advertisers, for even if your business or category is not at the forefront of criticism, any suggestion of regulatory control sets a future precedent for other categories, and undermines the principles of responsible self-regulation.

Why a "silver bullet" won't work

Academics and public health advocates often play the "blame" card when speaking out about advertising. They place government and regulators under pressure to impose restrictions that are both unjustified and disproportionate, looking for a silver bullet for complex issues.

Few of these advocates understand how advertising works, how consumers engage with advertising or how media is planned. They base their idea of advertising on academic theory, with limited real-world knowledge. Those of you working in marketing understand how different that is.

Another issue is that they fail to understand the likely unintended consequences of their policies to restrict advertising freedoms. For example, the application of unreasonable advertising restrictions typically means that other points of competition must be used, for example more aggressive price discounting, which can have the unintended consequence of encouraging purchase of cheaper products and raising consumption.

Protecting advertising freedom

We at ANZA work hard to sustain a robust self-regulatory framework that protects the community, while maintaining advertising freedoms. We believe the freedom to advertise, within a clear and responsible framework, is beneficial for the public, businesses and the economy.

In the face of challenging and unwarranted restrictions, ANZA will maintain a spotlight with officials and regulators on the fallacies in the arguments raised by those calling for bans. In doing so we thank you for your continued support.

If you have any concerns or are looking for guidance when it come to advertising regulation, schedule a meeting.

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