The ASA has been safeguarding consumers and protecting advertising freedoms for more 45 years. From small beginnings in 1968, it has evolved into an authoritative body that maintains constant vigilance in resolving advertising disputes in an impartial and even-handed way.
The founders of the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa were marketing and advertising industry bodies and media owners. All industry players who commission, prepare and carry advertising were involved from the outset. Long before South Africa embraced a culture of human rights, the ASA recognized everyone’s right to be heard and the right to accurate commercial communication that did not exploit the gullibility or susceptibility of any section of the population.
In its 45 year history, the Advertising Standards Authority has undergone one name change which coincided with development in the industry and in South Africa. The organization was first named the Advertising Standards Association.
THE SYSTEM AT YOUR SERVICE
The ASA was established to serve the public and the marketing industry. The founders of the ASA were all in the media, advertising and marketingindustries. Their aim was to provide an effective means of self-regulation. This organization’s credo is contained in its Code of Advertising Practice.
Challenges and significant events for the ASA have included the following:
• Growing consumerism resulted in consumers being invited to serve on the ASA’s committees but the president remains an independent appointment.
• Technical arbitration procedures were set up to offer advertisers a cost-effective way to resolve disputes.
• Legal recognition was achieved when the ASA and its Code were acknowledged by what is now known as the Electronic Communications Act.
• Legally trained committee members enhanced the Association’s standing and authority in the eyes of the law.
• Powerful sanctions were developed to adequately deal with those who disregarded the Code. The ASA can order an advertiser to publish a summarised version of an ASA ruling in all or some of the publications in which the ad appeared; all media and production costs are for the advertiser’s account, failing which the ASA can order advertising space to be withheld.
The ASA was put in place to serve the public and the marketing industry, and aims always to be representative of the society in which it operates.
THE ASA’S ROLE AND RELEVANCE
The ASA benefits different segments of society in different ways. These include:
The general public
The ASA is the national body to which they can complain when advertising is unacceptable.
For official agencies and statutory bodies, the ASA is a source of information and assistance in the field of marketing communication. Officials can consult one authoritative independent body that is close to both industry and public sentiment.
The ASA is a responsive communication channel that can take consumers’ concerns to the entire media and marketing sectors.
Media and marketing companies
For these companies the ASA is a fast and affordable means to resolve disputes, whether the complaints are from fellow marketers or consumers.