• Open Access

Food advertising and self-regulation: A view from the trenches


Correspondence to:
Janet Hoek, Department of Marketing, College of Business, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Fax: +64 6 350 2260; e-mail: J.A.Hoek@massey.ac.nz


Objective: This study assessed the logic of arguments advanced when the New Zealand advertising self-regulation complaints board adjudicated a complaint about a food product; in addition, it compared these arguments and the complainant's experience of the process to international best practice criteria relating to independence.

Methods: Documents relating to a complaint about chicken nuggets were analysed. Shuy's logical framework was used to analyse the arguments advanced; the case was subsequently compared to the best practice criteria advanced in the Madelin (2006) report.

Results: Even a well-informed and expert complainant found the system difficult to use and biased in favour of the advertiser. Analysis of rhetorical strategies used to respond to the complaint reveal use of fallacious reasoning, including ad hominem, to which the complainant was unable to respond.

Conclusions: In the case reviewed, the New Zealand self-regulatory system did not meet the level of openness, independence or transparency that the complainant expected and that are listed as “best practice” criteria in the Madelin Report. A regulatory system run by a government agency could afford greater protection to complainants and consumers and offer a more balanced adjudication process.

Implications: As the prevalence of obesity increases, governments are examining how effectively regulation controls marketing activities that encourage consumption of energy dense, nutrient poor foods. This paper raises timely and important questions about the balance and fairness of self-regulation as experienced by a complainant.