Thoughts from the desk of the CEO

May 30th '23

Gail Schimmel Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) CEO.


What is ethical advertising?

I will be sharing some thoughts on issues in the advertising industry that have caught my attention, in monthly updates going forward.


Today, I find myself thinking about what ethical marketing means to the ARB.


A recent flare up on Twitter – and who hasn’t been involved in a Twitter flare up in their time! – got me thinking about what we mean by the phrase “ethical marketer” when it comes to the ARB and its rules and decisions.


The ARB made a decision against a particular advertiser, and Twitter became outraged that the advertisement had run in the first place. Usually we keep our noses out of this type of thing – the less attention you give it, the sooner it dies down. But in this case I felt compelled to jump in: the advertiser were being labelled as unethical, but our experience is that this particular company always abides by our decisions – even when it comes at quite a cost and inconvenience.


For me, an ethical advertiser tries to keep the rules in the Code – but sometimes they are going to slip up. Maybe because of the volume of their advertising, maybe because they just didn’t see the possibility for confusion, or maybe because of a more subjective issue (and yes, maybe they are right and we are wrong – that’s why we have an appeal process!).


But what an ethical advertiser will always do is abide by the decisions and processes of the ARB. The fact that we rule against a piece of advertising is never a reflection of the ethics of that advertiser – it is a finding on a piece of advertising. It’s what happens in the process that counts.


And for consumers who are wondering which advertisers are ethical – there are a number of ways to tell.


Some advertisers put their money where their mouths are and fund the ARB. Some advertisers are members of our member organisations. And some advertisers have signed our responsible marketer pledge. These are all real ways that marketers can publicly show their ethics.


Email if you want to be a bigger part of the ethical marketing community.


Source: ARB


About the Advertising Regulatory Board

The Advertising Regulatory Board was set up by the broader marketing and communications industry to protect the South African consumer through the self-regulation of advertising, including packaging.


The ARB administers the widely-accredited Code of Advertising Practice which regulates the content of South African advertising. The founding members of the ARB are the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).


Informed by the learnings of 50 years of self-regulation in South Africa, the ARB accepts complaints from consumers and businesses. Consumers can lodge a complaint on the Complaints page


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