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Trade media in South Africa report that the self-regulatory Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is in a ‘perilous’ financial position and will cease to operate within 45 days unless the funding is found. The collapse of the ASA would set a dangerous precedent internationally and fuel argument for Government regulation.
The ASA has a proud 47-year history being founded in 1968. It was an early international member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) having joined in 1982. Its codes are based on the ICC Code of Advertising Practice and it has a complaints system where consumers can complain about breaches of the codes and have their complaints dealt with by an independent adjudication body.
On the face of it the ASA complied with the EASA 10 Principles of Best Practice Advertising Standards. However it appears that it has failed to comply with the Second Principle – Sustained and Effective Funding.
There has been discussion in the South African trade media about the ASA over the past few years. In 2012 there was considerable discussion with discord between the ASA and various industry members. Allegations included:
– Lack of transparency by the ASA regarding its budget and financial position
– In 2011 there was criticism of the funding model and a warning of a ‘pending crisis’
– The withdrawal of some key funders
– A ballooning ASA budget
– Slow turnaround of complaints
– The refusal of the ASA to process complaints about Government advertisements
– The ASA was becoming the ‘Mugabe of Marketing, with idiotic rules, iron fists and no money’
– ‘Lobbyists brazenly manipulating the ASA ‘by lodging multiple complaints to further their campaigns’.
– The codes were outdated
These issues will be familiar to self-regulatory organisations (SROs) especially when they are under stress. Successful SROs deal with the issues swiftly and remedy any perceived problems.
Urgent negotiations are now underway to resolve the funding crisis and no doubt the other issues will need to be resolved at the same time.
The US Better Business Bureau (BBB) has announced changes to its Code of Advertising. The main changes relate to price promotions, testimonials, endorsements and environmental claims. Further information including a link to the new Code is available on this link
The report on the Beijing Advertising Standards Forum last August is now available. The report gives a full count of the discussions at the Forum including how the Action Agenda on Advertising Standards and Practice Development evolved.
The report may be accessed on the following link http://bit.ly/Beijingreport2014
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has established ICC China Commission on Marketing and Advertising. It is anticipated that the establishment of the Commission will greatly assist the development of advertising self-regulation in China.
The ICC state, “The establishment of ICC China’s Commission on Marketing and Advertising arises at a pivotal moment with the recent endorsement by APEC economic leaders of the APEC Action Agenda on Advertising Standards and Practice Development to promote the alignment of advertising standards and reduce the cost of doing business across the region. The ICC China committee will play an integral role in building on this initiative, particularly at a time when the China Advertising Law is being revised.”
Full details of this new initiative can be found on the following link –
A central theme at the APEC Advertising Standards Forum and Mentoring Workshop to be held this week in Beijing on 8/9 August is best practice advertising regulation. The driver for best practice regulation in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand has been consumer protection. This approach was also taken with some Asian countries with mixed results – indeed in some countries the concept of consumer protection was novel.
APEC has taken a completely different approach – that of enhancing trade and economic growth. Indeed the strap-line for APEC is “Advancing Free Trade for Asia-Pacific Prosperity”.
The APEC report “Voluntary Standards and Regulatory Approaches in Advertising in APEC Economies” recognized that –
– Adspend was a driver of economic growth
– Advertising regulation that is not best practice is a barrier to trade
– There are shortcomings in the regulation of advertising in several APEC economies
– That self-regulation has an important role in best practice advertising regulation.
It is for these reasons that APEC has taken an interest in promoting the Beijing Forum and Workshop. Industry has joined in by providing the necessary funds for the event.
If the goal of best practice regulation throughout APEC is to be achieved it will require a long-term sustained program. The form and content of the program is yet to be developed but the Forum and Workshop should provide a start.
Will Gilroy, Director of Communications of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), recently wrote an excellent article on the APEC approach to advertising regulation. Will is based in the WFA Singapore office. This article is reproduced in full with his kind permission.
“For the first time in its twenty-five year history, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) looks to promote coherent advertising standards across the 21 Pacific Rim member economies in order to promote trade.
In June 2004, when the EU grew from fifteen to twenty-five member states, the European Commission challenged the European advertising industry to create ‘a better system of advertising self-regulation for a bigger Europe.’ The primary incentive of the Commission was to be able to afford acceding citizens to the European Union from countries as diverse as Cyprus, Hungary and Latvia the same consumer protection that they were given in Germany, UK and France.
This led to a flurry of activity from the industry coordinated by the European Advertising Standards Alliance. Industry self-regulatory infrastructures were quickly established from Lisbon to Nicosia and Tallinn to Ljubljana on the basis of the EASA Charter Ten Best Practice Principles, an agreed checklist of core components which make for effective industry-led advertising standards.
Today, nearly every member state of the EU has a Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO) in place which monitors, polices and enforces advertising codes of conduct and provides consumers and industry with an independent body which can process complaints and competitor disputes. It has been a remarkable achievement in such a short space of time and is testament to the European advertising industry’s ability to take its responsibilities seriously.
Ten years on, the global industry has a greater responsibility still. In 2012, APEC launched the Advertising Regulatory Capacity Building Mentoring (ARCAM) programme in order to identify best practice in advertising standards and identify ways in which they might be able to seek greater regulatory convergence across APEC economies.
The rationale was very different to that of the European Union. Rather than looking at the world through the prism of consumer protection, APEC is an organisation charged with promoting trade and there is growing acknowledgment within that advertising regulation that does not meet best practice constitutes a barrier to trade and is likely to reduce competitiveness and economic output. Conversely, increasing coherence of advertising standards across APEC markets would reduce the cost of doing business as well as non-tariff barriers to trade.
APEC also recognises that there are currently significant shortcomings in many APEC markets, particularly in the emerging markets of East and South East Asia. Foreign companies entering the market are often faced with swathes of red tape and a myriad of idiosyncrasies and legal uncertainties. Entering Vietnam, Indonesia or China can prove a daunting prospect for US or European companies not used to the local ropes.
But the economic prize is too great. Six of the top ten contributors to global ad spend growth (USA, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Russia) between 2013 and 2016 will be APEC economies. APEC accounts for approximately 54% of the world’s gross domestic product and about 44% of world trade. APEC countries represent 40% of the world’s population.
By creating clear industry standards and more transparent processes for the approval and airing of advertising content and giving industry a greater stake in policing itself, APEC would make it less costly for local companies to bring product to market and simpler for foreign companies to ensure compliance with local standards. All this would likely lead to increased trade and competition and higher advertising spend, which APEC knows to be intrinsically correlated to economic growth.
On top of this, it would be laying the framework for the EU’s noble ambition and afford greater protection to APEC consumers. Realistically, the APEC process is not going to increase consumer rights in US, Canada or Australia where they are already well enshrined – but it might just provide a blueprint for a system which over time improves consumer protections in China and Vietnam, for instance, while properly weighing the interests of companies and their ability to drive economic growth – which is ultimately the most sustainable form of consumer welfare in an emerging economy.
Indeed, a reality check is needed. APEC represents 21 countries, very few of which have a great deal in common. For those who bemoan the lack of EU consensus and homogeneity, the reality of having to drive an APEC agenda on a daily basis would likely paralyse them with shock. Nor do the member countries hand over decision-making or sovereignty in the same way that EU member states do. APEC represents a light-touch, aspirational vision, created in part as a reaction to the advent of other global trading blocs around the world.
But that is not to say that greater convergence of advertising standards between APEC countries is a pipe dream. In November 2012, the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) hosted a Dialogue on Best Practice in Advertising Standards in Hanoi at which WFA keynoted with P&G on the importance of advertising to the economy. This coincided with the Vietnamese government’s own review of the Vietnamese Ad Law in which they foresee the potential development of industry-led codes of conduct and an independent ‘Advertising Appraisal Council.’
Two years later, the Chinese Advertiser Association (again alongside the Australians on account of ASB’s tireless work) will be hosting a two day workshop in Beijing on August 8th and 9th 2014 alongside other global industry partners including WFA, EASA and the International Chamber of Commerce.
A great deal of the focus will be given to fostering a better understanding of global best practice in advertising standards and how they can be customised to a Chinese reality. Crucially, this has the support from Chinese government and Chinese industry during the year that China hosts APEC.
With APEC’s initiative, it is hard not to see growing momentum and appetite for industry involvement in setting clear and transparent standards and processes in countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and China.
Not least as these governments witness how the more evolved industry-led set-ups in India, the Philippines and Singapore can incentivise foreign direct investment.
Time will tell if the fruits of our labours can be properly reaped. It will not happen overnight. A great responsibility falls on industry to make the case for governments to revisit their advertising frameworks so that they can deliver systems which better serve consumers, businesses and the broader economy. But the first steps have been taken.”
The Forum and Workshop in Beijing this week is a huge step forward in the development of best practice advertising regulation in the Asia-Pacific region. There is no one method of best practice – just some essential principles. The methods and strategies used to implement the principles are decisions for each individual economy/country.
Europe provides a useful precedent but a replication of the model for APEC countries/economies is not appropriate. The European model tends to be top down with a sacrifice of sovereignty by individual countries – This is quite unsuitable for the Asia-Pacific region.
The region needs to develop its own model with an emphasis on harmonization for the purpose of facilitating trade and economic growth. A first step is the need to build capacity throughout the region. Once that is underway then harmonization could be contemplated.
We wish the Beijing Forum and Workshop well in its discussions
Foundation for Advertising Research
Adjunct Professor of Advertising Regulation
University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland
A best practice advertising Forum will be held in Beijing on 8-9 August. The Forum is for those involved in advertising regulation in APEC economies and is a follow-up to the successful Hanoi Dialogue. The Forum is under the auspices of APEC and is being organised by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) with the support of an international committee,
The First Day sessions include
– International communication on global and national policy developments
– Setting and maintaining advertising standards – the International Code and best practice in adapting it to local econ
– Sharing of company best practice cases on ad self-regulation
– Working together to achieve fair competition and sound business environment – Compliance and the role of Governments – (Interactive communication)
The second day is a Capacity Building Technical Workshop with the workshops being led by people currently running self-regulatory organizations. This will be a most valuable for those involved in intending, emerging and experienced advertising regulatory organizations.
Topics covered include
– Funding the system and running a secretariat
– Dealing with ICT developments
– Effective industry and consumer awareness
– The complaints process
– Truth, accuracy and decency – a practical exercise with a mock jury
This Forum is a most important event for those involved in advertising regulation in the APEC region. For further information please contact Sandy Rose at SRose@adstandards.com.au
APEC has published its report on ‘Voluntary Standards and Regulatory Approaches in Advertising in APEC Economies’. It is a most important document and lays the basis for future development of best practice advertising regulation.
The report notes the wide variation in standards in the APEC economies. –
“The paper also finds that the capability for advertising self-regulation among economies differs. Although sixteen economies practice self-regulation, five are either without self-regulation or are in the process of implementing some form of self-regulation. In economies where self-regulatory organizations (SROs) exist, there are differences on their level of adherence to what the paper took as international best practice benchmarks.”
The report has three recommendations to give the highest marginal benefit –
“1) Efficient compliance and monitoring;
2) Effective consumer and industry awareness; and
3) Efficient and resourced administration.”
The 69-page report can be found on this link
The ICC has released a the first official version of its Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications in Mandarin. The code is now published in 11 different languages. The ICC Code is the master code used by virtually all Self-Regulatory advertising regimes globally. The fist code was published in 1937.
The Mandarin version can be obtained on this link
The ICC has also published the Framework on Alcohol Advertising in Spanish which is available on this link
A meeting of APEC Trade Ministers was held last weekend in Qingdao. Among the many decisions made was “We welcome the APEC Advertising Regulatory Capacity Building Mentoring Program, which aims to promote alignment of advertisement standards and reduce the cost of doing business.”
Please see Item 48 of the Qingdao Statement on this link
This is good news and is the next step after that mentioned in the November18, 2013 post below. The decision allows the establishment of an ongoing program.
Watch this space for further developments.
The Singapore Government has recently announced that a self-regulatory regime will regulate the advertising of food to children. There have been ongoing discussions between industry organisations, the Singapore Ministry of Health and associated Health Promotion Board as to the best way to regulate the advertising of food and beverages to children. There has also been extensive consultation with various stakeholders.
New advertising guidelines will be incorporated in the Singapore Advertising Code of Practice and will take effect from January 2015. The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore will administer the Guidelines.
Included in the Guidelines will be uniform nutrient criteria. Only food and beverage products that meet the criteria may be advertised to children.