At the end of July, the International Counsel for Ad Self Regulation released a report on whether advertising self-regulatory standards around the world address non-discrimination. The report, which is based on a survey that was conducted of ICAS members at the end of 2019, found that all of the countries that participated in the survey -- except for the United States -- include the principle of non-discrimination.
ICAS noted that the ICC Advertising and Marketing Communications Code states that, "Marketing communications should respect human dignity and should not incite or condone any form of discrimination, including that based upon ethnic or national origin, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation."
ICAS also identified the following jurisdictions, among ICAS members, that have general self-regulatory codes which address non-discrimination issues: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Phillipines, Portugal, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, and South Africa.
ICAS reported that most non-discrimination issues handled by self-regulatory organizations related to gender portrayal and racial discrimination.
Noting that several self-regulatory organizations reported that they are working on new standards, or are updating existing standards, on non-discrimination, ICAS said that it planned to conduct a new survey in 2020, "to update the current report and to provide and additional in-depth view on how the rules are enforced and what SROs and the Advertising Industry are doing to fight racism and intolerance in advertising."
In light of the renewed focus in the United States, and around the world, on racial justice issues, it will be interesting to see whether the National Advertising Division -- which is the primary advertising self-regulatory program in the U.S. -- revises its own procedures to address non-discrimination issues. Unlike many self-regulatory organizations around the world, the NAD doesn't enforce a specific advertising code. Instead, its jurisdiction is currently limited to addressing questions related to the "truth or accuracy of national advertising." It is worth nothing, however, that one of the core principles of the Children's Advertising Review Unit's code -- which generally covers advertising directed to children under age twelve -- is that, "Advertisers should avoid social stereotyping and appeals to prejudice, are are encouraged to incorporate minority and other groups in advertisements and to present positive role models whenever possible."
"Self-Regulatory Organizations are increasingly looking at the issue of racial stereotyping in advertising, some with a view to reassess their rules"