Advertising Council Australia (ACA) has today launched a new accreditation program for the Australian advertising industry, to raise standards of excellence and reward industry-wide commitment to continuous professional development.
The program will address key issues of ethics, employee wellbeing and safety, D&I, sustainability, and learning and development, creating a culture of world-class professionalism and standards and practices that redefine new benchmarks across all advertising service firms.
Michael Rebelo, CEO of Publicis Groupe, ACA Deputy Chairman and Chair of the ACA Accreditation Committee, said: “We have the privilege of working in one of the most exciting and dynamic industries in the world, and play a crucial role in driving growth for our clients’ businesses. As a professional service, it is essential that we are also the most trusted.
“Accreditation benefits everyone – clients, agencies of any size, and most importantly, our people. To be ACA-accredited will be a mark of distinction that demonstrates an agency’s commitment to developing ethical strategies that ensure continuous support, growth and innovation.
“This will make a demonstrable difference to how we operate, and not just the product we create – ultimately building a more diverse and sustainable future for our industry,” he said.
Accreditation will only be available to ACA member agencies, who can apply from 5 June 2023.
Accredited member status will be awarded based on agencies having four professional standards in place. These include an up-to-date staff policy handbook consistent with all current laws and workplace obligations, an employee assistance program, a qualified Mental Health First Aid Officer on staff (for businesses with more than 50 employees) and a commitment to make ACA codes and compliance training available for all staff.
From August members can apply for additional A+ endorsements, with criteria tied to genuine progress in two key areas – diversity and inclusion, off the back of ACA’s Create Space Census, and reconciliation – recognising differences in commitment and capability within ACA’s broad member base and helping brands and marketers to make more informed decisions about which accredited agencies they want to work with. In 2024, ACA will also launch an A+ endorsement for environment and sustainability.
Tiered accreditation is available from 2024 onwards. Gold, platinum and diamond accreditation will be awarded to members that provide evidence of ongoing investment in professional standards and training, corporate social responsibility and professional development metrics.
ACA CEO Tony Hale said: “While the Australian advertising industry is largely very professional, it’s not necessarily viewed as such by the broader business community, particularly when compared with other sectors such as law and accounting that have long-standing accreditation programs at their heart.
“Accreditation is, therefore, an enormously important step forward for the sector and is key to creating an industry-wide culture of professionalism, engendering trust, accountability, integrity and respect for our industry as a whole.”
All ACA members – 74 agency brands across 160+ offices, including some of the country’s largest advertising firms – will now have to adhere to a set of codes including new Member Rules, a new Code of Conduct and a longstanding Code of Ethics, providing ACA with the ability to set and review legal and behavioural standards.
A 2022 ACA survey revealed that standards are not uniform across its membership base. One-fifth of ACA’s smaller member agencies do not have an up-to-date Employee Policy Handbook and almost one in three spend less than 0.5% of payroll on staff professional development. Only 29% of members were confident that Codes and Compliance training had occurred in the last 12 months.
ACA’s 2022 ‘Create Space’ report also revealed key insights into the experiences of advertising professionals, with one in five likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion or discrimination, more than half affected by a mental or physical health condition, and only 53% aware of their company’s DE&I strategy, policies and procedures.
To ensure that all members can attain or reach the standards required for accreditation, a comprehensive Member Resource Hub has been established to provide agencies will all the necessary tools, resources and information.
Hale concluded: “Accreditation is rigorous yet accessible for all ACA members and we will work with every one of them to ensure no agency is left behind in their pursuit of professional excellence.
“This is a turning point for the industry and we want every advertising agency and business to play their part in ensuring Australian advertising is one of the most professional services in the country.”