AANA calls for AARB disbandment

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has called for the disbandment of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB), arguing the new body serves no purpose.

Established four months ago as an “independent alternative”, the AARB has not handed down any determinations yet, despite committing to a target of 20 working days on average for the handling of complaints.

The AANA stated its Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme delivered ten determinations, four of which have been upheld, in the four months since the AARB was lauched.

“There are already a number of regulatory protections in place in terms of messaging and placement of alcohol advertising.  It is an effective system, underpinned by a transparent and robust complaints handling system that delivers responses to consumer complainants within 30 days,” said AANA director of codes, policy and regulatory affairs Alina Bain.

The AARB, a joint initiative between Cancer Council Western Australia and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth (MCAAY), was established to assess alcohol advertising in Australia.

Figures from the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) state only 3.8% of public complaints received relate to alcohol advertising.

In March, the AARB stated it was “an independent alternative to Australia’s current inadequate and ineffective advertising self-regulation system”. It was to focus on the consideration and adjudication of complaints received from the community.

“The industry-based Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code [ABAC] is absolutely inadequate when it comes to reining in the industry’s promotional activities,” said MCAAY director Professor Mike Daube in March. “The code is voluntary, does not cover all forms of advertising or all alcohol advertisers, does not address issues such as placement, and has no powers to penalise advertisers that breach the code. In short, it’s useless.”

The AANA fired back: “Make no mistake, this action by activists - to form an alternative complaints mechanism to the Advertising Standards Board [ASB] and ABAC - is the action of those who want to tear the advertising complaints system,” said AANA chief executive Scott McClellan in March.

“At the moment if a member of the public lodges a complaint with the ASB and it is upheld there will be a satisfactory resolution with the advertisement removed by the advertiser and the media outlets,” McClellan said in March. “Setting up your own self-appointed adjudication system that has zero effectiveness or authority will simply confuse the public [and] reduce the effectiveness of the independent ASB, and is therefore to the detriment of the Australian community."

Bain said today: “The AARB purported to provide an alternative complaints mechanism but has failed to deliver a consumer benefit.  Professor Mike Daube’s own comments that AARB is “working to their own timelines” confirms that it was not designed to act as a genuine complaints handling system for the consumer.

“The current self-regulatory system for alcohol advertising delivers a tangible public benefit and is underpinned by a responsive and transparent complaints handling system. We call on the AARB Board to stop misleading the Australian public and end the AARB farce.”

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