Public relations material now included in AANA Code of Ethics

December 10, 2015 Published by

The Code of Ethics is the cornerstone of the AANA self-regulatory system, providing a central set of principles to which all advertising and marketing communications should comply. Its purpose is to ensure that advertisements and other forms of marketing communications are legal, decent, and honest, having been prepared with a sense of obligation to the consumer and society, and a sense of fairness and responsibility to competitors. Other AANA codes concern children, food and beverages, and environmental claims.

AANA Codes are continually evolving to keep pace with the dynamic advertising, marketing and media industry. As such, as of 1 January 2016, the AANA will extend all codes to include public relations (PR) communications. PR material can be presented in a variety of formats including, but not limited to, video, infographics, photos, audio, question and answer articles, and online.

What is covered by the Codes?

If the material satisfies the following criteria, then the Codes will apply:

1)      The marketer or advertiser has a reasonable degree of control over the material.

2)      The material draws the attention of the public in a manner directly, or indirectly, calculated to promote, or oppose, the product, service, person, organisation, or line of conduct.

The Codes do not cover labels or packaging for products, or in the case of broadcast media, any material which promotes a program to be broadcast on the same channel or station. Furthermore, where material is developed to provide information to stakeholder groups such as investors, or government, and the brand owner does not have control over that final material, it will not be covered by the Codes. For example, corporate reports such as annual reports, statements on matters of public policy, and corporate public or regulatory affairs messages in press releases will not be covered. However, when a brand takes any information contained in corporate reports and uses it to promote the brand, e.g. to show how well the company has performed financially, then this falls under the definition of material over which the advertiser or marketer has a reasonable degree of control over, and which promotes a product, service, company or individual.

In the case of media, where PR materials are provided to the media but where the brand owner does not have control over how the material is disseminated, the Codes generally will not apply. Additionally, if a brand representative gives an interview in which they promote a brand’s product or service, but the journalist, rather than the brand ambassador, has control over the interview, the Codes generally will not apply. However, in circumstances such as infomercials, native advertising campaigns, and other instances where paid social influencers are using the PR material provided by the brand, then given the brands’ degree of control over the campaign or influencers, the Codes will likely apply.

How will this affect your agency or client?

All marketers, advertisers, and consumer public relations professionals should be aware of the update to the Codes. Although, it is unlikely this extension of the Codes’ definition will have a significant impact on how most PR practitioners operate as the review is merely ratifying what many brand owners currently practice. Ultimately, the improved transparency and clarity will align the code with international standards. However, these changes will provide the public with additional grounds for lodging complaints about PR material which they believe may contravene the Codes, and it is important for brands to understand that if they exercise control over material on any medium that is being disseminated and it is promoting a product, service, company or individual, then the Codes will apply to that material.

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