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Chairman’s Address To The ASA Annual Function

Chairman’s Address To The Advertising Standards Authority Annual Function.

28 November 2000

In the November addition of Ad Media, which landed on my desk yesterday, the headline is “It’s All Up To Me (Gulp!)”

Ad Media is the monthly magazine in New Zealand for media. The contents of its front page show how much of a vital part the self-regulatory ASA and the complaints system play. First the headline article concerns Lion Red’s chin heads campaign; the issue of alcohol advertising was a major one for years and years in New Zealand, but now, with the assistance of a strong code which is enforced by advertisers, agencies and media, the vast majority of opinion accepts the role of responsible alcohol advertising in our society. The ASA was at the forefront of this development.

There is then a reference to a Cleo ad with the byline “Sexual content in Cleo ad may offend”. You can be sure that if it does offend even one individual who complains, then it will be considered objectively by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board. The fact that it’s Cleo has particular relevance for the radio industry, as a commercial for the magazine was held to be in bad taste by the ASCB following a complaint earlier this year. The magazine, radio and the agency were horrified, as the commercial itself had not only won an international award but both premiere prizes at the radio industry ‘s annual creative awards. Not withstanding, the independence of the ASCB and its authority within the wider industry media was robust enough to result in acceptance of the process, although criticism of the decision. The process involved an appeal to the Advertising Standards Complaints Appeal Board which was successful. It illustrates how the system works. Then there is the advertisement on the front page for Infotech Weekly, one of the new challenges faces the ASA and the industry. How we self-regulate the Internet is an area of priority for the organisation going forward next year. Politicians, Bureaucrats and the advertising industry have been grappling with issues relating to Internet advertising for some time. The ASA has been working in partnership with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for some two to three years on establishing EMSA, or Electronic Marketing Standards Authority. EMSA will operate off a web site: containing both the ASA codes for the advertising content of web sites and DMA codes for the transaction which results from the purchase from the web site or email. In effect this is using both organisations to erect a new front door. The ASA for its part will operate the adjudication board using the expertise of existing ASCB’s members; the board will be chaired by Judi Jones and Jenny Courtney a public member with Rob Thompson as an alternate member. There will also be an industry member and alternate to be nominated by the DMA. To assist the establishment the Ministry of Consumer Affairs made a grant of $25,000 while it is proposed to fund the running of the organisation by charging web site owners approximately $450 per annum for members and more for non-members for the use of the EMSA logo on their web site.

EMSA is an example of how it works here in New Zealand. There is the industry, the public and self-regulation interspersed with the State, in this case through the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. While this is very much a “suck and see” approach, it does demonstrate to all the benefits of developing initiatives through cooperation.

From the point of view of a media operator, the role played by the ASA is absolutely vital. I recently introduced the new Managing Director of TV3 Rick Frieson, a Canadian, to Kevin Malone, CEO of TRN, an American. Kevin’s advice to Rick was that you will only spend 50% of your time operating as the other 50% is geo-political; quotas, frequencies, digital, charters, youth networks, New Zealand on Air, Broadcasting Standards Authority, etc., etc. This is where the ASA is a gem. It brings together all the players, public, Government, quasi-Government, media, advertisers and agencies to develop advertising codes which are relevant and accepted. The alternatives to self-regulation do not bear thinking about. We are fortunate to have developed an efficient all-inclusive system that suits the New Zealand scene.

The ASA has been working hard on updating our codes this year. We see this as a vital role to ensure that they remain relevant. I am pleased to advise that there will be new food and children’s codes from 1 February 2001. These two codes are inter-linked, for example in the advertising of treat foods. Both codes have been implemented after a lengthy consultation period which has involved feedback from dozens and dozens of interested parties. As an important aside, this process has led to the support for a law change in one area, namely the promotion of nutritional foods, which was otherwise not permitted. E.g. Eat vegetables for a healthy diet.

In addition the ASA is currently working on peoples code and a gambling code. In both instances this is a time consuming process as it involves drafts, feedback, further circulation, amendment and other inputs. Both codes will be progressed in 2001.

Another major initiative has been the establishment of TAPS, or Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting Services. TAPS is an initiative of both the ASA and the Advertisers Association of New Zealand (ANZA). TAPS commenced on 1 November and applies to all therapeutic advertising across all media. This is similar to the LAPS system for alcohol advertising and aims to ensure maximum compliance with the therapeutic code. A key issue is training for delegated authorities and these are in process.

I am pleased that at the end of this year, the work of the ASA has contributed to a growing realisation that advertising codes, self-regulated, is the correct route for policy makers, rather than bans. The ASA and its members believe in the fundamental right to advertise. It follows that we are strongly oppose to any bans whether that be on children, therapeutic or food. But with that right to advertise comes social responsibility, and it is the role of everyone in society to ensure that advertising meets appropriate standards. The future is positive. One negative is however, continuing demands for advertising bans by certain groups. In twenty years of involvement with the industry, I never cease to be surprised by how often proponents of bans gain political mileage. Most often, research is fundamentally flawed, and the arguments are based on personal prejudice and, in some cases, downright bigotry. Pharmac’s attitude to advertising of medicines is an example. It is straight out dis-informtion.

The role of Chairman of the ASA is an easy one. That is because of a very talented Executive Director, Glen Wiggs, and his staff. I particularly wish to make mention tonight of Glen and Heather McKenzie who have completed ten years of work at the ASA. They have been fundamental in the development of advertising self-regulation in New Zealand. All of us owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

As I am retiring after just one year in the Chair, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all my fellow members of the ASA for their contribution. And to all of you a very prosperous and booming 2001.

28 November 2000

Brent Impey

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