ASA Newsletter: September 2020

Welcome to our September Newsletter! The updates in this edition include:

1.    Update from the Chief Executive
2.    Release of Influencers AdHelp Information
3.    2020 General Election and Referenda Update
4.    Commerce Commission: Environmental Claims Guidance

If you have any questions regarding the content of this newsletter please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Update from the Chief Executive

The last quarter has flown by at the ASA, with our focus on the lead up to the election, the review of our Code for Advertising & Promotion of Alcohol, and our recent work in the influencer advertising space.

We have seen an increase in complaints, and adjudicated on 376 advertisements to 31 August 2020 compared to 306 advertisements in the same period in 2019.  The increase is due in part to COVID-19 related advertising along with election and referendum advertisements.

Influencer marketing has been another area of heightened public interest, and you may have seen some of the media coverage on the release of our Influencers AdHelp Information on identifying ad content. We are grateful to those who provided a submission for their time and expertise, and look forward to rolling out industry training in the coming weeks.

We have been dealing with complaints about political and referendum advertising for some months – ahead of the 2020 General Election. Our fast-track election complaints process begins on 13 September where the standard response time for advertisers is reduced from seven days to 48 hours and the Complaints Board will meet weekly.

Complaints about election and referendum advertising are considered differently to complaints about advertising for products and services. In assessing whether these advertisements comply with the Advertising Standards Code, the freedom of expression provisions under the Bill of Rights Act 1990 must also be considered.

Section 14 of the Act says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.” This freedom of expression supports robust debate on current issues in a democracy.

Under Rule 2(e) Advocacy advertising in the Advertising Standards Code:
•    The identity of the advertiser must be clear
•    Opinion must be clearly distinguishable from factual information, and
•    Factual information must be able to be substantiated.

If the identity and position of the Advertiser is clear, a more liberal interpretation of the Advertising Standards Code is allowed.

In these unpredictable times, the role of efficient, neutral and robust advertising self-regulation is vital and we remain committed to our mission of ensuring every ad you see is a responsible one. Our team are available to support you and we encourage you to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Kind regards,

Hilary Souter
Chief Executive

Release of Influencers AdHelp Information

Last week we released our Influencers AdHelp Information – making it clear that ads are ads. This AdHelp Information was developed in recognition of the need for clear guidance following a growing number of complaints and provides guidelines around the requirements for identification of Influencer ad content.

The release of our Influencers AdHelp Information came after a review of international guidance in this area and a consultation process.  The Influencers AdHelp Information Consultation Report provides more information on the consultation process and submissions.

The requirement to identify advertising will apply to all Influencer ad content posted from 14 September 2020. We will be rolling out training regarding the application of the guidelines and encourage you to register your interest using the form on our website.

Update on Election and Referenda Advertising

The Guide on Election and Referenda Advertising has been updated to reflect the new date for the New Zealand 2020 General Election. The fast-track process for election complaints now commences on 13 September. This means the Chair of the Complaints Board will review complaints within 24 hours of submission to the ASA, parties have 48 hours to respond to accepted complaints and the Complaints Board will meet at least weekly to adjudicate on these complaints up until 14 October.

Last week, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Electoral Commission, New Zealand Media Council and the ASA published a joint press release on our “no wrong door” approach to complainants and our combined undertaking to ensure that people making a complaint to any agency will be directed to the right organisation. For more information and to view the full media release, click here.

Commerce Commission publishes Environmental Claims Guidance

In July, the Commerce Commission published guidelines for traders to understand their obligations when making environmental claims, also known as ‘Green Marketing’. These apply to both express claims such as “100% recyclable” and implied claims which are less specific but are still capable of being misleading. Included in the guidance is a reminder that that all traders, whether large or small, must make sure their environmental claims are substantiated, truthful, and not misleading to avoid breaching the Fair Trading Act 1986.

We strongly encourage advertisers to read and apply these guidelines when developing creative that makes environmental claims.