AANA crackdown: Unrealistic body images banned from advertising

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 23 November 2018
Influencers are being used by brands like Flat Tummy Tea

Advertising can not portray unrealistic body images under new provisions introduced by the Australian Association of National Advertisers' (AANA) Code of Ethics.

Under the updated code, advertising and marketing communication will be unable to include body shapes or features that are "unrealistic or unattainable" through healthy practices.

With more advertisers increasingly using models and influencers on social media, the AANA said the update serves as a timely reminder to ensure advertising is not associated with portrayals of body images that could be harmful to viewers.

For example, an unrealistic ideal body image may occur where the overall theme, visuals or language used in the advertisement imply that a particular body shape is required to use the product or service.

“We know from our Advertising Sentiment Index research that body image in advertising is a community concern and the AANA is committed to ensuring that advertising does not exacerbate the problem, by setting a standard that advertising must not promote an unrealistic body image,” the AANA director of policy and regulatory affairs Simone Brandon said.

pia 2An example of influencer marketing

The Butterfly Foundation welcomed the new guidance, adding that advertisers have a moral and social responsibility to educate themselves and be diverse in their portrayal of body shapes and sizes.

"Over-representation in popular culture, of which advertising is a part, of so called ‘ideal’ bodies can trigger body dissatisfaction and translate into dangerous behaviours and in some cases, eating disorders,” Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan said.

The AANA said that the Code does not prohibit advertisers from including a diversity of images, including people who have a variety of sizes and shapes.

“However, advertisers should take care to not present an unrealistic body image as a shape to conform or aspire to,” Brandon said. 

Earlier this year, the AANA cracked down on the use of sex appeal in a way that is exploitative or degrading. Both code updates act to help advertisers have a positive impact in terms of representing and promoting positive body image in society.

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