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Keywords:

  • advertising;
  • Australia;
  • community standards

The concept of community standards is the cornerstone of advertising self-regulation in Australia. However, there is a dearth of research on current attitudes towards advertising and a virtual absence of such data in an Australian context. A questionnaire was developed to assess consumer attitudes towards advertising; respondents were 872 adults residing in New South Wales. We found high levels of concern regarding advertising standards in general and a consistent perception that advertising should not, for example, use coarse language or violent images, portray women or men as sex objects or show nudity, stereotype or make fun of groups of people, or convey messages that undermine parental authority. In relation to specific appeals and executional elements, although we identified numerous statistically significant demographic differences, there was a clear majority view as to what elements are unacceptable. That is, rather than the posited vocal ‘moral minority’, there is a consistency of views across the community on key issues of advertising standards. The finding that only a very small proportion of community-based respondents knew how to make a complaint to the correct organisation suggests that studies utilising complainant samples are unlikely to be representative of those who are concerned about advertising. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.