AANA 'sex sells' crackdown: Degrading or exploitative ads will be banned

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 1 February 2018
Ultra Tune continues to receive the most complaints

Advertising can no longer use sexual appeal in a way that is exploitative or degrading under new provisions introduced by the Australian Association of National Advertisers' (AANA) Code of Ethics.

Under the new AANA code, which comes into effect on March 1, there will be more power to ban advertising that features "degrading or exploitative" sex appeal or minors using sex appeal.

The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) manages the complaint resolution process of the advertising self-regulation system in Australia. ASB CEO Fiona Jolly says: "Advertisers need to be aware that the code is being updated and the new wording means the ASB may take a stricter view of advertising which uses sexual appeal in an exploitative or degrading manner."

“Advertisers need to ensure new campaign material is inline with the updated code and does not use sexual appeal in an exploitative or degrading manner. Previously the board would only find advertisements to breach the code if images used were both exploitative and degrading, which was quite a high threshold.”

As part of the code update, the AANA has redefined ‘exploitative’ as:

(a) taking advantage of the sexual appeal of a person, or group of people, by depicting them as commodities; or 

(b) focusing on their body parts where this bears no relevance to the product or service being advertised.

The definition of ‘degrading’ will remain unchanged, as will the first part of the provision relating to the depiction of minors.

“Most advertisers already act responsibly and don’t include images in advertising which are exploitative or degrading to anyone," Jolly says.

"However ASB research indicates that there is still community concern around the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative or degrading manner in advertising material and therefore this change will go some way to meeting community expectations."

One of the brands that could be impacted by this change is Ultra Tune. Its ads often receive complaints  on the basis of sexual exploitation, but under the previous codes, the ASB had no grounds to ban its ads, despite community outcry.

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