Responsible businesses run responsible ads – regardless of legislation

Could new regulations be a golden opportunity for the industry? Linus Hjoberg, Senior Vice-President (ANZ) at Channel Factory, delves into the recent changes to the country’s Food & Beverage Code and considers if it might encourage greater responsibility among advertisers.

We all know the phrase “It takes a village” when it comes to raising children. But how often do we consider advertisers as part of that village?

Advertising is the form of media that people, including minors, encounter most frequently. Children see ads often before they can understand them. Parents trying to shield their kids from ads would have to isolate themselves and use ad-free media exclusively—a nearly impossible task.

Advertising itself isn’t harmful; it’s the nature of certain ads that can have troubling effects. Fortunately, protecting children doesn’t fall solely on parents. We have regulations guiding what can and cannot be advertised to kids.

Recent updates by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to the Food & Beverage Code and Children’s Code aim to reduce children’s exposure to certain food and drink ads by imposing stricter requirements.

The code clearly signals to the public that certain products are to be advertised to adults only and not children, and more clearly spells out that these rules apply to advertising in all media – including online, social, influencers and sponsorships.

This isn’t just a regulatory adjustment but a call for businesses to adopt more conscious and responsible advertising practices. These changes, welcomed by the Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA), signify a positive shift. The ASA’s balanced approach ensures that advertisers can responsibly promote their products while meeting community expectations.

For businesses in Australia and New Zealand, the alignment of these new codes simplifies compliance across both countries.

Beyond the regulations

However, compliance is just the beginning. Businesses should strive to be responsible and respectful, going beyond mere adherence to regulations. It involves recognising the broader impact of advertising decisions. By avoiding harmful or inappropriate content, businesses not only enhance their reputation but also open up new opportunities for reaching diverse and previously excluded audiences.

The ASA’s new codes are a welcomed step towards a more responsible advertising landscape in New Zealand. However, legislation can only go so far and while adhering to these evolving regulations should be the foundation of any business’ approach, companies should implement a more proactive strategy to ensure they’re not falling behind in terms of online safety.

There are many ways this can play out, but one place to start is to begin examining the broader implications for audience targeting. Rather than relying on exclusion-based measures to steer clear of kids’ audiences and content, a paradigm shift towards inclusion-based approaches could be the key.

Protect through inclusion

If you try to protect children through exclusion then things will always slip through the cracks. But, when you protect through inclusion, you are handpicking everything you are happy and comfortable with children engaging with, ensuring they are protected online.

Moving forward, advertisers and brands must embrace content-based advertising. This allows brands to align with creators and content that match their preferences and key audiences whilst avoiding the unsafe, unsuitable, and untrue.

Being a responsible business is good for business, often sparking unique and innovative work. By committing to elevating industry standards in transparency and kids safety and not just doing the bare minimum, our industry can become an example to others.

Not only does this have the very positive and obvious consequences of protecting children, but it will help restore trust in the whole of the advertising industry among brands and consumers across the globe.

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