The ASA has moved to expedite the ailing efforts of advertisers to eliminate stereotyping, will it disrupt or compliment though?
THE ASA has taken the step to propose banning orders on certain ads that fail to address the existence of stereotypes; it has much to consider though.
With the continuing clamour of businesses to have ads that are guaranteed to succeed and is verified through data and pretested means, the progression of it in the mainstream has been limited during the current century.
While relative success is achieved an endemic has spread that is averse to any advertising experimentation, with the impetus of advertising driven by the tried and tested.
Paradoxically though it is the very audiences they seek approval from that are stymieing any potential shift from the advertising metanarrative and stereotype that remains entrenched in the creatives of many businesses.
Advertisers have fundamentally underestimated the influence they have on popular culture, as well as the social stigmas that continue to plague many TV screens, perpetuating many of the issues that have led to the ASA’s suggestions of how to facilitate social change.
The scenarios portrayed within ads can be replete with emotive cues that serve to create cognitive mirroring in the minds of consumers, thus ensuring relative success.
This faux portrayal of normality though has been proven not to represent the current state of society.
For instance according to research by the Lloyds Banking Group just 0.06% of ads featured members of the disabled community, while 17.9% of the population is disabled in some way, shape or form.
Conversely 0.29% of ads feature single parents, with 25% of the population comprising of this demographic.
Overall the disparity between the actual state of society and what is portrayed in ads is woefully prevalent, but has partly been as a result of the competition between online, TV and other means that have lead to more risk averse content.
The price of failure for agencies, businesses, media buyers and broadcasters to display risky or untested content has been too much of a deterrent amid the guarantees of measurability and instant gratification from online.
Therefore as TV has remained the strongest source of advertising revenue during all periods, thus carrying the greatest leverage, businesses have been reticent to deviate from the proven.
Although statistically consumers have said they would be 70% more willing to engage with brands if they sought to empower ostracised or underrepresented groups, businesses in the age of accountability have been unwilling to shift toward a more forward thinking prerogative.
While the ability to measure and understand how and why consumers are searching in the manner they are can assist with the pretesting of creatives, the conformity and ability effective advertising has on the consumer can be a formidable leveraging force in itself.
Therefore regulatory reform has been undoubtably delayed over the beginning of the 21st century, with complacency and consumer exploitation superseding representation.
Thus in order to expedite the matter of stereotype elimination, a form of regulation will of course improve representation and portrayal, what is not needed is the exclusion of certain ads which may not conform due to context or through overzealous bureaucracy.
Lessons should be sought from the fallout in the wake of the Leveson inquiry into press standards; IPSO was formed (Independent Press Standards Organisation) and led to inhabitation and disincentive of quality journalism.
Although sanctions have been relaxed since, what the ASA needs to refrain from is the inhabitation of certain creative ideas – a simple evolution would be fitting.
Akin to the regulations and statutes of times past which have served to protect consumers and improve advertising quality, the latest evolution in advertising jurisdiction needs to follow suit.
A thorough revolution which banned certain creatives or fundamentally blocked any form of arbitrary intervention will only serve to weaken advertising and not enable them to flourish once more.
The current system is clearly flawed, but this should not instigate the thorough implementation of banning certain elements of advertising, the freedoms namely that ensure creatives can continue to flourish amid an increasingly targeted advertising world.
Overall the ASA’s intervention is long overdue, however the reasons for it doing so have been facilitated by the very technological advances that have paradoxically entrenched many in the industry to persist with the very stereotypes they have created and maintained.
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