South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority in Crisis

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a respected industry self-regulatory body in South Africa, is in crisis and needs our support. It urgently requires short-term funding to keep it in business while a turnaround strategy is implemented. In partnership with a business rescue team, the ASA has identified ways in which it can improve and better serve the evolving advertising industry in future.

“Losing the ASA would be a truly sad day for not only the advertising industry, but more importantly for proponents of industry self-regulation in any form in South Africa. The ASA has served advertisers and consumers tirelessly for more than 50 years, and has always championed the highest standards of honesty and fairness across the industry. It has certainly had its issues in recent years, but these are already in the process of being resolved.” says Andrew Allison, Head of IAB SA Regulatory Affairs Council.

The ASA is an institution that was established by the advertising industry, belongs to the advertising industry, and has faithfully served the advertising industry for over 50 years. It has provided consumers and competitors alike with a means of resolving complaints and disputes relating to unethical and irresponsible advertising, and has fiercely championed advertising excellence, morality and fairness. If it fails to locate the necessary funding, this established, objective regulatory body will be liquidated. The IAB believes that the ASA is worth saving, and that a South African advertising industry that continues to regulate itself is far better than one which does not.

The industry body and the ASA Code of Advertising Practice has been developed over decades, and is supported by an enormous wealth of decisions and precedents which flesh it out and give it life. Without the ASA, the industry would stand to lose all of this, and would need to start again and look to the courts or arbitration as a means of settling disputes that cannot be solved amicably. This would, without question, be more expensive, take much longer, and would not be backed by the code and the precedents that support it.

It is also by no means certain what will happen to consumer complaints if the ASA is gone. The industry would also be losing the moral compass that has served it, and which has evolved with it and the needs of South African consumers, since the 1960’s. Without the ASA, consumers’ only means of redress would be to lodge complaints with the National Consumer Commission (NCC) or the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud, who are already overloaded with complaints.  Further to this, the NCC is actively looking to partner with accredited ombuds across different industries to manage the case-load and to ensure that the Consumer Protection Act is effectively enforced across the economy generally. The ASA is in the process of applying for accreditation of the Advertising Code of Practice. This would allow it to function as the recognised ombud for the advertising industry. If the ASA were to be liquidated, this process would cease. Consumer rights in South Africa would be dealt a crippling blow as a result.

The ASA urgently needs your support – get in touch now to commit funding, the extended deadline is Friday 18 May 2017.  IAB SA will keep our members updated.

Questions and funding commitments can be communicated directly to Andrew Allison (andrew.allison@redandyellow.co.za), or to Mike Gendel at the ASA (mike@gendel.com).

Download: Business Rescue Plan ASA_7 April 2017