Does Queensland need tighter regulation of outdoor media? The industry stats would indicate that currently there is no evidence to suggest so. Last year there were 3,640 complaints submitted across all media to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) of these only 5%, yes 5% related to outdoor advertising.
However, bowing to pressure from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) the Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has announced an inquiry that will examine if new laws and classifications are needed to crack down on sexually explicit material on billboards.
Some background to why the ACL has put the pressure on the Queensland Government, last year the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities launched the ‘Rip and Roll’ campaign (pictured) which featured a homosexual couple. This ad is about promoting safe sex, but the Australian Christian Lobby found it far to offensive and took action, they put pressure on Adshel (the company that carried the ads on their sites) to remove them, and unfortunately they did. They then had to make an embarrassing u-turn and reinstated them following a barrage of criticism for having done so.
What was refreshing was at the time, Goa Billboards refused to remove the messaging and instead countered the pressure they got from ACL with digital ads displaying the message “Our God loves everyone gay & straight”.
What is more the ASB later dismissed all complaints about the “sexual nature” of the campaign and found it did not break any advertising or marketing codes of ethics.
Clearly the ACL are not happy at the fact that they were so robustly defeated in their attempts at censorship, but alas they may have the last laugh. After receiving a petition from the ACL recently the Attorney-General said “It is difficult to avoid outdoor advertising in everyday life and such advertising can be seen by children, with no ability for parents to restrict access if it is inappropriate,” he went on to say “Whatever regulation is in place, we need a system that when complaints are made, adequate action is taken. I don’t think that is happening at the moment” this could almost be the ACL speaking.
Alina Bain, CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers, said there is no evidence that the current self-regulatory system is not working, and pointed out that “advertising works on a national level so to expect an advertiser to have one billboard for Queensland and another for the rest of the country is plainly absurd,” .
What is more the Outdoor Media Association (OMA) has also hit back at the Queensland Government’s probe into the regulation of outdoor advertising, branding it “redundant” and “absurd” and their chief executive, Charmaine Moldrich, questioned the need for the review saying “the facts speak for themselves. There were no nation-wide complaints, in the area of sex, sexuality and nudity upheld against OMA members in 2012.”
So why this inquiry? Where is the evidence that one is even needed? And is this ad featured here really so offensive in its own right to justify such an inquiry?