03 November 2008
Updating crucial to maintaining relevance

Opening Doors Through Self-Regulation

Some thirty-one years ago, the advertising industry identified a need for setting up certain regulations to ensure that advertising is prepared with a due sense of social responsibility and respect for the principles of fair competition, amongst other things. Thus, certain standards of practice were drawn up, christened “The Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice”, which everyone formally agreed to support, financially, morally and practically.
Updating crucial to maintaining relevance

Opening Doors Through Self-Regulation

Some thirty-one years ago, the advertising industry identified a need for setting up certain regulations to ensure that advertising is prepared with a due sense of social responsibility and respect for the principles of fair competition, amongst other things. Thus, certain standards of practice were drawn up, christened “The Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice”, which everyone formally agreed to support, financially, morally and practically.
 
 

The Advertising Standards Authority Malaysia (ASA), comprising members with exceptional experience in advertising, was set up to administer the Code, which was launched by Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in 1977. Today, the ASA applies the Code under the auspices of the Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA), the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As), the Malaysian Newspapers Publishers Association (MBPA) and the Media Specialists Association.

The Almighty Code

The primary responsibility for observing the Code falls on the advertiser. It encompasses general guidelines relevant to all advertisements as well as rules for specific sectors such as children, slimming, and health. The main objectives of the Code are to promote and enforce high standards in advertisements, to investigate complaints, and make certain that the system works to the public’s best interest. It has been designed to ensure that advertising in Malaysia can be trusted, is legal, decent, honest and prepared with a sense of responsibility to the consumer.

Before publishing any advertisements, the advertiser must be able to produce all documentary evidence needed to support any claim, whether explicit or implicit, made in the advertisement. This is a reversal of the burden of proof—if there appears to be obvious grounds for challenging a claim, no other evidence need be produced by ASA.

A number of sanctions exist to counteract advertisements that conflict with the Code. Those include denial of media space, adverse publicity from the ASA’s rulings, as well as imposition of sanctions by the industries professional associations.

Contemporary Revision

On August 12th, 2008, former Information Minister and current ASA Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadir launched a third edition of the Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice, at Wisma Bernama, Kuala Lumpur. This version is said to be a greatly expanded rendering of the International Code of Practice published by the International Chamber of Commerce as long ago as 1937, and the British Code of Advertising Practice.

During his speech, Abdul Kadir congratulated the ASA Committee Members, whose united front and perseverance was instrumental in revising the Code. “The ASA has to frequently recognize changes in consumer expectations, the advertising industry and the media, and must deliver effectiveness of the self-regulatory system in maintaining advertising standards while adapting to changing times,” he added.

Recent Appendages

The latest Code features added emphasis on protecting consumers’ interest and ensuring fair play among competitors. New sections have been developed to cover Environmental Claims, Motoring, Property Advertising and Database marketing. Specific rules on cigarette advertising have been dropped, as the tobacco companies have heeded calls from the authorities and agreed to self-regulate by not advertising cigarettes.

The ASA had a monumental task as the Code covered all advertisements within the print media, billboards, leaflets, labels and more; all of which account for over 60 percent of the country’s advertising expenditure. In 2007, RM5.4 billion was spent on advertisements, and the ASA estimates ADEX will rise eight percent this year to reach RM6 billion.

The president of the 4As, Datuk Vincent Lee commented that so far, there has been no drop in spending because of the Olympic Games or other events. In fact, for some media, there has been strong growth in terms of outdoor and digital advertising.

Lee also noted that in terms of advertising, print media might experience some stagnation this year, although he still expects target growth will be achieved because of the huge potential in television and creative production. The top three consistent spenders in respect of advertising include Telcos, fast moving consumer items, banking and finance.

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