For many years, while the state in China is the key purveyor of law and regulation, the Chinese private sector often works on its own to enforce norms and expectations of government. So it is quite interesting to note that China has embraced self-regulation in the marketing and advertising sector.
In April, as part of the first Global Advertising Week to be held in Beijing in the event’s 58-year history, the China Association of National Advertisers, the China Advertising Association and the China Advertising Association of Commerce jointly adopted the first set of ethical standards for the entire marketing industry in China.
The China Responsible Marketing Code was developed by the three ad industry associations in close consultation with the World Federation of Advertisers, and multinational and Chinese companies. The Code is built on the global advertising code from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), USCIB’s affiliate. The ICC code serves as baseline model for other countries, requiring that all marketing and advertising communications be legal, decent, honest and truthful. Brands must apply established principles of fair competition and recognize the special care required in marketing to children and young people. The Chinese Code also includes provisions for medical, health product, food, alcohol and cosmetics advertising.
“U.S. business strongly supports Chinese efforts to develop an advertising self-regulatory system,” said Brent Sanders, chair of USCIB’s Marketing & Advertising Committee and associate general counsel at Microsoft. “Building its code on global industry best practices set by ICC is a significant development in bringing the Chinese advertising market into greater coordination with the rest of the world. Furthermore, self-regulation enhances trust between businesses and customers, a vital concern for industry as Chinese consumer demand continues to grow.”
China is forecast to surpass Germany next year as the world’s third-largest advertising market.
USCIB actively contributes to promoting advertising and marketing self-regulation around the world. Currently, USCIB’s Marketing & Advertising Committee is in the final stages of helping to update the ICC’s most recent marketing code. Key new provisions include transparency and control principles around online behavioral advertising for the first time at the global level. Once approved, the ICC’s global standards can then be taken up by regional and national self-regulatory frameworks, as in the case of China and elsewhere.
“The new Chinese Code is not only an opportunity for industry to demonstrate its commitment to ethical marketing practice, it will assist industry to engage the Chinese government as it updates and revises its current advertising laws, a process that has been ongoing,” said Mr. Sanders. “All self-regulatory frameworks build on core laws and regulation.”
Stephan Loerke, WFA Managing Director, adds “I congratulate the Chinese marketing industry on this important step. In a successful consumer-led economy, trust in brand communications is critical. This code is a significant first step towards establishing effective advertising standards in China.”
Self-regulation in marketing and advertising, whether in China or elsewhere in the world, is less about government versus industry than about finding ways to ensure principled commerce. Building trust between consumers and business is clearly on China’s agenda, and that is a good thing.
Staff contact: Jonathan Huneke