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.

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