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Prevailing Community Standards in Advertising

An issue which regularly pops up in complaints submitted to Ad Standards is prevailing community standards – the laws and social mores which the Ad Standards panel determines to be those prevalent at the time.

What are we talking about?

Community standards in this context covers things like sexual appeal, offensive language, compliance with laws and the like.

Often ad placement is a key factor in determining whether prevailing community standards have been breached.

Practical examples

Ads which contravene road rules will often run into trouble. Hyundai was spanked by the panel for an ad depicting a woman sitting in a car being towed.

Toyota was similarly reprimanded for an ad showing a woman standing in a passenger seat with her upper body and arms outside the moving vehicle.

Offensive language used as a play on words may draw ire in context. Complaints regarding a Youfoodz ad depicting a child imitating Gordon Ramsay were upheld by the panel.

Recently, a P&O Cruise ad featuring the phrase “ship yeah” was found to not breach prevailing community standards.

Llingerie retailer, Honey Birdette, has had numerous ads banned not just because of their overtly sexual nature, but their placement in shopping centres in full view of the general public – including young children.

Our tips

We can’t guarantee your ads will always pass muster, but here’s a few common sense tips.

  • Does your ad comply with all relevant laws, regulations and industry codes?
  • Know your audience – who’s going to see your ad?
  • Does it pass the sniff test? If it smells like a duck …

If you’re ever in doubt, get some advice. The cost of doing so is likely to be significantly less than the sunk costs in producing the ad in the first place.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Naomi Stephens is a paralegal with KHQ Lawyer’s marketing, advertising and promotions team.  She joined KHQ after having spent 11 years in-house with travel publisher Lonely Planet, supporting its global marketing teams with their legal needs.  Naomi is passionate about marketing related legal issues and works collaboratively with her clients to ensure that their campaigns are the best they can be. 

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