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Autocontrol: A Critical Study of Achievements and Challenges in the Pursuit of Ethical Advertising Through an Advertising Self-Regulation System

Abstract

The theory and practice of advertising self-regulation have been evolving for decades in pursuit of basic standards for advertising quality. In Spain, this discipline was put into practice in 1995, the year the Association for the Self-Regulation of Commercial Communication (Autocontrol) was created. This article aims to examine in depth the functioning of the Spanish advertising self-regulation system, with special emphasis on the Advertising Jury, and explore to what extent some of the normative requirements of rigour, independence and participation can be considered to have been met. The paper is based on a case study in which interviews with Autocontrol members, Jury members and consumer associations have particular bearing. The results shed light on the achievements of Autocontrol’s self-regulation work and the challenges it still faces.

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Fig. 1

Source: The authors. (Color figure online)

Notes

  1. http://www.autocontrol.es/.

  2. Interviews were conducted with the following Autocontrol and Jury members:

    Former Jury Members:

    1. 1.

      Former section chairperson. 2012–2015. No. 1

    2. 2.

      Former section chairperson (appointed at the request of the National Consumer Institute). 2009–2015. No. 2

    3. 3.

      Former section chairperson (appointed at the request of the National Consumer Institute). 2009–2015. No. 3

    4. 4.

      Former section President 1999–2001 and President of Jury. No. 4

    Current Members (2016 to present)

    1. 5.

      Section chairperson. No. 5

    2. 6.

      Section chairperson. No. 6

    3. 7.

      Section chairperson. No. 7

    4. 8.

      Section president. No. 8

    Autocontrol Members:

    1. 9.

      Person in charge of Copy Advice and Jury. No. 1

    2. 10.

      Person in charge of Autocontrol. No. 2

    3. 11.

      Autocontrol worker. No. 3.

  3. Interviews were conducted with the following associations and representatives:

    1. 1.

      Coordinator in the Area of Mediation for the Consumers’ Union of the Valencian Community (Unión de Consumidores de la Comunidad Valenciana, UCCV).

    2. 2.

      President of the Association of Communications Users (Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación, AUC).

    3. 3.

      Delegate from the Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities (Comité Español de Representantes de Personas con Discapacidad, CERMI) for the UN and the Human Rights Convention.

    4. 4.

      Cabinet member (communications) of the Farmers’ Union (Unió de Llauradors i Ramaders).

    5. 5.

      President of the Pedestrians’ Association (Asociación A Pie).

    6. 6.

      Speaker for The Consumers and Users Federation of Andalusia (FACUA).

    7. 7.

      Head of Communications and Image for the Women’s Image Observatory (Observatorio de la Imagen de la Mujer).

  4. A list of the members of the Autocontrol Board of Directors is available at: http://www.autocontrol.es/pdfs/Junta_Directiva_Asamblea.pdf.

  5. The National Consumer Institute merged with the Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition to form AECOSAN in 2014.

  6. http://www.easa-alliance.org/Publications/Statistics/page.aspx/375.

  7. On the levels of Autocontrol participation, see also Ignacio Cruz Roche (2015). Self-regulation of advertising in Spain. Effectiveness and efficiency of the Autocontrol Association (1995–2014). Autocontrol. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4437.8966.

  8. http://www.autocontrol.es/pdfs/folleto_espanol.pdf (p. 8). During the course of this work, the Autocontrol members also noted the predominant role of the Jury.

  9. Organisation: http://www.autocontrol.es/autocontrol_organizacion.shtml.

  10. Article 22 of the Statutes of Autocontrol.

    http://www.autocontrol.es/news/ESTATUTOS%20_%202014.pdf.

  11. http://www.autocontrol.es/pdfs/balance%2013%20AUTOCONTROL.pdf page 19.

  12. http://www.autocontrol.es/pdfs/balance_15_AUTOCONTROL.pdf page 24.

  13. http://www.inmujer.gob.es/observatorios/observImg/informes/docs/Informe2014.pdf (pages 16-17).

  14. The various reports issued by FACUA on Autocontrol can be consulted at http://www.facua.org/es/informe.php?Id=10&capitulo=90&IdAmbito=13 (Consulted 9 May 2016).

  15. See, for instance, 2016 spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8daxE6LN7mo.

Abbreviations

AECOSAN:

Agencia Española de Consumo, Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición (Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition)

ASA:

Advertising Standards Authority

ASR:

Advertising Self-Regulation

AUC:

Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación (Association of Communications Users)

CERMI:

Comité Español de Representantes de Personas con Discapacidad (Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities)

FACUA:

Federación de Asociaciones de Consumidores y Usuarios de Andalucía (The Federation of Consumers and Users of Andalusia)

SRO:

Self-regulatory organisation

UCCV:

Unión de Consumidores de la Comunidad Valenciana (Union of Consumers of the Valencian Community)

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Acknowledgements

The authors, who are members of the Spanish research project FI2013-47136-C2-2-P, would like to express their gratitude to all the association members and individuals who were interviewed during the study, and for their attention, help and patience during the research project. In addition, the authors would like to acknowledge and thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments, which have greatly improved this paper.

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Correspondence to Ramón A. Feenstra.

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Feenstra, R.A., González Esteban, E. Autocontrol: A Critical Study of Achievements and Challenges in the Pursuit of Ethical Advertising Through an Advertising Self-Regulation System. J Bus Ethics 154, 341–354 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3423-0

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Keywords

  • Advertising self-regulation
  • Autocontrol
  • Consumer associations
  • Advertising jury
  • Advertising ethics
  • Participation
  • Independence