Eating disorders, low self-esteem and even depression!

These are the problems that the Salvation Army believes are being caused by the existing billboards being put up in Australia. The group argued that self-regulation by advertisers had failed to prevent the sexualisation of girls and women that could potentially lead to eating problems and mental illnesses.

The Salvation Army also believes that the existing self-regulatory system put in place “offers little protection for children’s rights whose voice may be absent, nor does it work to specifically monitor, analyse and act on issues impacting children”. The group spoke at a public hearing at the federal inquiry into outdoor advertising in Melbourne.

Other groups that spoke at the inquiry include Kids Free 2B Kids, Collective Shout and 2020women. Kids Free 2B Kids have pushed for a G-rating on all outdoor advertising and that more detailed and harshly enforced regulations be put into place on advertising material that might be harmful to children. At the same time, 2020women claim that the Advertising Standards Board had little effectiveness in looking out for the public, and instead, act primarily in the interest of the advertising industry. They are calling for a general prohibition against sex discrimination and sexual harassment in any area of public life.

Greg Burlow, managing director of Look Media Promotions, a mobile outdoor advertising provider, feels that there should definitely be measures taken to ensure that outdoor advertising messages are seen by the appropriate audience. “Just the other day, I saw an alcoholic brand advertised on a bus shelter that was used by many school children on their way to school and I was appalled,” says Burlow.

“Just like traditional advertising that are given ratings and shown at times relevant to their audience, the same regulations should be put into place for outdoor advertising. And if static outdoor advertising does not have the capabilities to change the message based on different times, then this issue must be addressed.”

Burlow explains: “The issue with static advertising is that the message is visible twenty-four hours a day to anyone who passes by. I believe that appropriate messages should be used alongside appropriate timing schedules to reach the right target audience. If children, who are frequently at bus shelters, are exposed to alcohol ads on their way to school, then surely tighten regulation is needed.”

The inquiry will make a recommendation to the Attorney General in June.