Advertising self-regulation 'under constant threat', warns outgoing AANA chief

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 10 August 2017
AANA CEO Sunita Gloster takes up a commercial and strategy role at Ten next week.

Self-regulation of advertising is under constant threat by government and could lead to “piecemeal regulation”, outgoing AANA boss Sunita Gloster has warned.

In her final interview with AdNews before taking up a post as chief commercial and strategy officer at Ten, Gloster warned if different stakeholders do not band together to protect the system and find consensus over contentious areas of advertising, the ability to self-regulate could become eroded by various different agendas pulling in different directions.

“Advertisers' right to self-regulate is continuously under threat and the many submissions and initiatives we have taken together with our industry partners to defend that right are the real achievements,” Gloster tells AdNews in an exclusive interview.

“The right to self-regulate our industry continues to be challenged at state and federal level, with constant pressure from various interest groups to end self-regulation. It is no longer one industry or one form of media that is the focus for further regulation.”

'Patchwork regulation'

Gloster says state governments are already starting to regulate various non-broadcast media.

An example of where this is already taking place is over what betting shops are able to offer in different states, with regulations relatively relaxed in the Northern Territory, where many betting shops are now legally based, compared to other states with much stricter regulations.

This creates the “the real potential for a patchwork of regulation that differs by state, by product and by media”.

“This will be to the detriment of advertisers who have to navigate such a disparate landscape. It will also be to the detriment of consumers who, under the AANA Codes, can expect the same standards across all media and can complain to one body, the ASB, regardless of where the ad was published, in what media or by which advertiser,” Gloster adds.

“Piecemeal regulation will lead to piecemeal solutions for consumers who want to take issue with advertising material. As an example, the AANA was heavily involved in defending outdoor advertising from specific regulation in Queensland. 

“Pushing back on needless state government restrictions is something the AANA needs to continue to focus on in the future.”

Major achievements 

Gloster was reflecting on her time at the helm of advertiser’s peak body in the Australia and what she regards as her achievements in the role.

Among them is creating a Wager Advertising code for advertisers that puts in place guidelines and restrictions over the content of sports betting ads, such as not being able to market advertising to minors or make gambling ads appear like sports betting will have successful outcomes.

”Responsible, respected and innovative marketing is at the heart of what the AANA stands for and the new wagering code built on a self-regulatory system which continues to ensure that advertisers are accountable to the community for how they communicate their products and services,” Gloster says.

Other achievements include a “very important” revision of the definition of advertising and marketing communications last year to include relevant direct-to-consumer public relations material.

Gloster tells AdNews this reflects the reality that PR, social media and content marketing practitioners are now communicating directly with consumers more than ever before.

“As new platforms for marketing communication are explored, the AANA Codes ensure we continue to take responsibility for our content, whatever the platform or format,” Gloster says.

“It’s this type of work which demonstrates to Governments, regulators and broader stakeholder groups that the industry is serious about robust self-regulatory standards.”

Gloster says ensuring self-regulation at the AANA is robust and evolving will be a key task for her successor.

Under her watch, the AANA has considerably strengthen its membership base and engagement levels and making sure the body remains the “respected voice for brands” will be of paramount importance to its ongoing success.

This involves “maintaining that constant dialogue with all the members at different levels helped me and the board shape the AANA agenda and entrench its central role in industry affairs”.

“Developing a reasonably informed position and maintaining the confidence of the members on so many fronts was challenging but, ultimately for me, incredibly rewarding,” she says.

A number of names have been thrown into the hat by industry figures speculating who will be the next CEO of the AANA.

Among them are Margaret Zabel, former CEO of the Communications Council and McDonald's marketer, former Unilever and Kellogg's marketing diretcor John Broome and John Sintras, the former chairman of Starcom MediaVest who recently exited a role at IPG Mediabrands in New York. 

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