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Advertising Standards and Social: An Explanation

The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body and reviews complaints about advertisements against various (mostly) voluntary industry codes.

Complaints can be about any form of advertising – including on social media.

What happened?

The ASB received complaints about a pop up ad on Facebook for the movie Sausage Party.

The ad showed two characters from the movie in a dangerous predicament, and included uncensored swearing which appeared in both the audio for the ad and in onscreen copy accompanying the ad.

The ad popped up spontaneously, and there was no warning that it contained strong language. As Facebook users can be as young as 13, the complainants argued that the language used was inappropriate for the medium.

Sony Pictures Australia (which was responsible for the ad) said that the ads were part of a programme targeted at Facebook users aged 15+, and that the language was appropriate for the targeted demographic in keeping with the movie’s MA15+ film classification.

What did the ASB say?

The ASB disagreed, citing use of the ‘f’ word as infringing the Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics. Accordingly, the complaints were upheld.

In reaching its decision, the ASB noted that while the ad was appropriate in the context of the movie, the ad contained obscene language, and the placement of the ad on Facebook meant that users under the age of 15 could be exposed to it.

The takeout

Make no mistake, social media is an advertising platform. To reduce the risk of complaints, brands should ensure their social media ads complies with relevant industry codes.

Take the same approach you would for a TVC or print ad, and you’ll be fine. But don’t forget to monitor user content – that has to comply too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kelly is the founder of KHQ Approved, which offers fixed fee solutions across a range of areas (including marketing law and contract review).  Peace of mind from an experienced team for a reasonable price.

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