|Ethics is a cornerstone of the changing face of business today. In developing the Agency Code of Ethics, the Communications Council created a world-first in the advertising industry. More importantly, it is our Code - developed by the industry, for the industry - and not imposed from outside the industry.
All members of the Communications Council are signatories to the Code of Ethics.
This represents a commitment by agency staff and management to abide by the spirit and principles of the Code and in doing so, uphold the highest standards of ethical practice in our industry.
Each agency should ensure that 50 per cent of staff have competed an Ethics Workshop to qualify for Accreditation. A workshop will need to be completed every two years. For more details and bookings contact Gawen Rudder on (02) 8297 3800.
Ethics and the AFA Code
What are ethics? Ethics are a system of moral principles to help us determine right from wrong, good from bad. The Code is designed to help people working in advertising agencies to do the right thing in daily life or when faced with a conflict of interest.
Why do we need a Code? We occupy a role in society where business, creativity and media overlap. This brings with it both opportunities and responsibilities. Our industry relies on trust – from our clients, colleagues, suppliers, consumers and critics.
This Code is not a set of rules encased within a legalistic framework. Rather, it is a combination of broad principles and specific issues which set standards of behaviour for people working in the advertising industry. Equally we have an obligation to understand and adhere to our clients' industry codes of conduct. The Communications Council does not seek to act as police, judge or jury on the issue of ethics. We see our role more as a guide to agencies as they navigate their way through advertising’s grey areas.
In its commitment to uphold the integrity of the Code, the Communications Council accepts written complaints, which it undertakes to settle with the advice and assistance of The St James Ethics Centre.
Since its introduction in 2000, the Agency Code of Ethics was adapted for use in 2004 by Canada’s ICA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising), the Brussels-based EACA (European Association of Communications Agencies) and was acknowledged in the US District Court as the primary source for a proposed code in the Ogilvy & Mather fraudulent behaviour case in 2005.
The Agency Code of Ethics
Every day we can be faced with ethical dilemmas. These guidelines will help agency people to do the right thing. Ethics can’t be imposed. They have to grow from within each of us. And be understood by all of us in advertising.
- Stand up for what you believe is right. Be open-minded and receptive. If something’s wrong, try to resolve it. Let a well-informed conscience be your guide.
- Honour all agreements. Agreements are expressions of trust. Honour all promises – written or spoken - to clients, colleagues and suppliers. Respect confidentiality.
- Don’t break the law. Don’t bend the law. Think beyond legal argument to moral argument – the spirit of the law. Don’t stretch the truth. Don’t look for loopholes.
- Respect all people. No stereotypes please. Individuals should be understood, not portrayed in a way that could bring disrespect. Use humour, but avoid cheap shots.
- Strive for excellence in everything you do. Create an open, trusting environment with colleagues, clients and suppliers. Raise the standards of creativity and professionalism.
- Give clients your best advice, without fear or favour. Act in your clients’ best interests. Tell them what they need to know, not what you think they want to hear.
- Look after your colleagues. Responsibility is a two-way street. Look for the best in one another, acknowledge it, and reward it. Leave room for fun, family and friends.
- Compete fairly. Be honest in commenting on competitors and our industry. No dirty tricks in new business. No misrepresentation of the capabilities of your business.
- Think before you act. The best decisions are informed decisions. Think before you act. Will this action connect with your personal sense of what is right or wrong?
- Be honest. This can be tough. Be honest without being brutal. Be true to yourself. Recognize the trust placed in you, your agency and the advertising industry then act accordingly.
You can download a printed version of the Code here.
The Communications Council conducts these workshops at a nominal charge of $400 which is used to defray costs.
The workshops are interactive, instructive and conducted in a fun atmosphere. They bring to life the Code of Ethics signed off by the agency’s CEO as a condition of membership.
Ideally the workshop comprises up to 25 people drawn from every area of the agency from new staff through to top management. Together we explore the balance between personal values and agency culture as we demonstrate the crossover between the hard issues of the law (ACCC) and the so-called softer issues of ethics. The big difference is these workshops are fun and can get quite noisy! A series of ‘hypo-ethicals’ tease out contrasting personal versus corporate culture behaviour and beliefs. The learnings invariably come from the participants rather than the moderator. The workshops invariably prove to be a great team-building exercise for the agency.
The St James Ethics Centre: www.ethics.org.au