The International Chamber of Commerce has been a major rule-setter for international advertising since 1937, when the first ICC Code on Advertising Practice was issued. Since then, it has extended the ICC self-regulatory framework on many occasions to assist companies in marketing their products responsibly. Previously separate codes were revised and brought together in 2006 as the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications Practiceand most recently updated in the 2011 revision, following in the long-established tradition of promoting high ethical standards for advertisers, advertising agencies and the media around the world. The global codes are regularly reviewed and updated by the ICC Commission on Marketing and Advertising, which brings together some of the best marketing, self-regulatory and legal expertise available from the range of participants in the industry and from around the world.
The Code is a fundamental underpinning but the credibility of self-regulation depends on its implementation. For the individual company or any other organization a commitment to a Code of Conduct will be of true benefit only when the principles and rules are made part of the governing policy and are actively applied and enforced.
This Guide has been drawn up with a view to facilitate the practical use of the ICC Marketing Codes specifically. However, it is based on general and sound principles of compliance, and may therefore prove helpful in relation to other sets of rules. In particular, it will easily apply to the implementation of national or sectoral codes in the field of marketing communications, which throughout the world are based on the ICC Codes.
Although the Guide gives advice on how to implement the Codes within an organization, the need to support and combine efforts with any relevant self-regulatory bodies set up by the industry should be underscored. When established with the means to be effective, such schemes multiply the value of self-regulation. Consultation of self-regulatory decisions and copy advice facilities can also provide deeper understanding of interpretation matters.
This Guide provides principles and guidance for the implementation of the ICC Marketing Codes within an organization (company, firm, undertaking or association), including measures for maintaining and improving compliance with them. Where appropriate the Guide can also be used in connection with other commitments of a self-regulatory nature.
The objective of this Guide is to facilitate effective implementation of the ICC Marketing Codes and similar self-regulatory frameworks. The Guide can be used as a stand-alone document, but should preferably be combined with other relevant instruments such as compliance or training programmes where they exist.
- Endorsement and commitment
The board/top management should endorse the Code in question and make a firm commitment to effective compliance that is to permeate all relevant parts of the organization, including branch offices and subsidiaries. This should be supported by action.
- Policy integration
The endorsed Code – and adherence to relevant industry rules based upon it - should be made an integral part of the organization’s strategy and business objectives. This should be effectively communicated to the organization. The implementation should be so framed as to take due account of relevant cultural and commercial conditions and applicable legal requirements. Any organization specific rules or amendments must be compatible with the Code.
For the Code to take effect within the organization it must be clearly and visibly endorsed by the Board/ top management. Effective implementation requires an active commitment from the leadership to develop and maintain a programme for its operation and enforcement.
There should be an explicit message that observance of the Code is mandatory, and that lip-service does not meet the compliance requirement. Compliance should be the same as for any legal obligation. Also, it should be clear from the outset that accountability will be assigned to relevant management levels throughout the organization.
The reasons why the Code is being implemented should be widely communicated to the organization. This should always include the fundamental values of self-regulation, in particular its trust-building and brand enhancing features, but may also address specific situations and political issues, as appropriate.
The implementation programme should be drawn up and explained in a document that is readily available to all employees concerned, using plain language that all can understand. Where appropriate, it may include instructions for how specific local or regional circumstances or requirements can be accommodated when applying the Code. Obviously, how elaborate and detailed the programme needs to be depends on a number of factors, e.g. the diversity and size of the organization. However, care should be taken not to make it more complex than necessary.
The Code should be presented as an instrument that will help the organization to achieve its business objectives. It should therefore become an integral part of the organization’s business strategies, plans and operational policies.
It should be explained that the Code, in its field of application and together with other related documents, sets the ethical benchmark of the organization, and how that relates to assets such as brand value. The way these ethical norms impact on the organization’s activities and communications should also be outlined. All of this should be done in a manner that takes account of the organization’s degree of complexity (size, structure etc) and fields of operation. Particular attention should be given to relevant, ethically sensitive areas (target groups, culture, type of products, communications, etc).
Observance of the Code should be required of external suppliers and made part of the contract.