Expanding Accountability for DEIB in National Advertising

Sep 19, 2022 by Laura Brett, Vice President, National Advertising Division, BBB National Programs

Why are today’s consumers demanding that advertisers address the lack of representation in advertising? Because there is growing recognition that adverse stereotypes used in advertising can be harmful and misleading, can contribute to bias, and can create harmful effects on the stigmatized populations who feel devalued.  

As Facebook IQ described in a recent report on diversity and inclusion in online advertising, “People around the world are demanding to see themselves better represented in advertising. They want to see the true diversity of their communities depicted more often—and more accurately—across many areas, including race, gender, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities.”

BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD) has been consulting with partners around the world to research and understand the appropriate approach to addressing this global challenge. The Advertising Standards Authority in the U.K. has conducted critical research on the harms that unfavorable and misleading representations of race and ethnicity can cause. Many countries other than the U.S. have self-regulatory standards that prohibit stereotyping in advertising.

In January 2022, NAD’s sister program, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), began monitoring child-directed advertising under the revised CARU Advertising Guidelines, widely recognized industry standards to assure that advertising directed to children is not deceptive, unfair, or inappropriate for its intended audience. Though the Guidelines have always recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion in ad creative, the revised Guidelines now hold advertisers accountable for negative social stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination.

Since the launch of the revised Guidelines, CARU has brought two cases under this new provision: Primark clothing in July, and Moose Toys in August. 

NAD will take a slightly different approach and address the harms caused by misleading and harmful stereotypes using its core function: reviewing the truth and accuracy of national advertising.  

Beginning today, September 19, 2022, NAD has clarified a provision in the NAD/NARB Procedures, a document that outlines the parameters of both the NAD and National Advertising Review Board (NARB) challenge review processes.

NAD’s procedures are now revised to expressly recognize that its responsibility to analyze questions involving the truth or accuracy of national advertising includes “national advertising that is misleading or inaccurate due to its portrayal or encouragement of negative harmful social stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination.”

Now that this new provision of the Procedures is live, cases relating to that new provision may be challenged at NAD or may be brought as a part of the NAD monitoring process. 

Please note, this blog was updated on October 11, 2022.

Suggested Articles


American Privacy Rights Act: A Primer for Business

Was it the recent series of natural phenomena that prompted Congress to move on a bipartisan, bicameral federal privacy bill? We can’t say with certainty, but we can outline for you what we believe to be, at first glance, the most compelling elements of the American Privacy Rights Act of 2024 (APRA).
Read more

Take Care of Your “Health-Lite” Claims

Some advertisers believe they can avoid scrutiny when making health-related claims by making their claim “softer.” But context is key. Health benefit claims must comply with the FTC’s Health Products Compliance Guidance. The substantiation bar is not lowered by changing the approach to the health-related claim.
Read more

Bullish but Cautionary: A Balanced Way to Approach the Impact of AI

Business and nonprofit leaders in the U.S. may not feel so weighty a responsibility in assessing the global impact of AI, but we must realize AI’s power to impact our organizations, our local economies, our sectors, and our nation.
Read more

New Rules of the Road Can Sustain US Leadership on Interoperable Digital Data Flows

President Biden closed February 2024 with an EO that signaled an important development for how the U.S. plans to position and guard itself from global adversaries, and speaks volumes about how the U.S. views the next-generation impacts of data flows on the digital economy and how our nation can be better equipped as a global leader. Read our takeaways and future considerations.
Read more