Confessions of an advertising standards nitpicking professional

12 months ago the Advertising Standards Authority approached the IAB about
representation on the ASA Complaints Board following an
increasing number of complaints about online advertising. Having
previously worked closely with the ASA my initial thought was, well, how hard
can it be? My hat found the ring and next minute I’m the new, possibly too
liberal, online guy who gets to give my two cents’ worth when the measuring
stick is put to advertising social responsibility and ethics.

I imagined I’d spend hours sitting around a table watching ads and simply
giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. OK, maybe not quite that simplistic. But
certainly I wasn’t prepared for losing weekends reading case papers and pouring
over hundreds of pages laying out the therapeutical benefits of mud, relative
capacities of 400 types of heating and the depth of discussion about
appropriateness of a certain bank advertisement showing a young Kiwi lad
launching himself off a rock into a watering hole.

my very first ASA meeting I was heralded as Dan from MSN. “He’s from the
dark-side,” whispered the mildly apologetic introducer.

I accepted this introduction with a smile and my agency honed ‘nothing bothers
me’ face, I was a little shocked. Surely online advertising isn’t as bad as my
qualified introduction suggested?

year into the job and I can say, sadly, the “dark-side” description was bang
on. In my mind, most consumers are very tolerant online, and advertising that
would in most cases generate complaints in other mediums often flies
imperiously online. There’s a perception that anything goes. That does not make
it right. In fact, I find it rather disconcerting.

is no longer the new cool kid playing by its own rules. We are responsible for
a significant portion of industry advertising spend and with that comes
responsibilities for standards of decency and judgement.

pleased to say Microsoft is shaking things up and setting the bar higher for
advertising across the Microsoft portfolio, MSN included.

the Mi9 portfolio now reaching over 67 percent of online New Zealanders (new
Nielsen numbers), we’ve put a stake in the ground marking out advertising
quality standards. And while we’ve never seriously compromised ourselves, new
guidelines will help advertisers and creatives understand what’s okay and what’s

guidelines, known as Creative Acceptance Policy (CAP), are designed to maintain
consistently high advertising standards across all Microsoft media properties.
They’re mainly focused on things like sensationalised text (e.g. how to lose
10 kgs with no exercise), non-reputable therapies and health and beauty (e.g. pills
promising to cure cancer), and non-reputable dating and gambling (e.g. online
poker and offshore gambling).

while there is a place for advertisements targeting those in the market for
Russian and Asian brides (and bless, there is no judgement) that form of
advertising will no longer be acceptable on MSN and the Microsoft Media Network.

  • Dan Robertson is sales director at Mi9, the newly rebranded corporate arm of MSN NZ.  

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