PRCA Country Rep calls for ethics and standards in Sri Lanka’s advertising and marketing industry

Thanzyl Thajudeen, PRCA Country Rep and PRCA APAC Board Member

Sri Lanka needs to put together a cohesive and comprehensive set of regulations and standards when it comes to advertising, marketing and communications and this should be done in consultation with various stakeholders in the industry, highlighted

Thanzyl Thajudeen, the country representative of the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA), the world’s largest and influential PR body.

Even though there exist certain codes, they are certainly not implemented in practice. And many of them stand in isolation such as those targeted at medicines, health and food sectors or other channels such as media, telco, or outdoor. The industry is lacking a unified framework, enabling opportunities for exploitation, many of which have contributed to social, economic and psychological dysfunctions. 

This is quite visible in many sectors in the country, from financial services to food and education, and there is little or no control over that which is being conveyed or carried out. There are no measures to monitor and report misleading advertising or claims made by brands, or discussions on the effect it has on children, or encouraging unhealthy choices or unethical consumptions. 

Sri Lanka needs to establish an independent, non-governmental body that oversees such, and ensure they are accountable and socially responsible. There also needs to be more active dialogue and knowledge sharing, not just within the industry but vertically with other domains. This provides a holistic view and understanding of the impact of the actions and activities these brands and corporations have on the broader society and community. 

Many industry leaders and veterans in the marketing and advertising fraternity invest a lot of time and money on bringing about the best of the best ideas and execution but are often shortsighted about the societal and behavioral impact. However, we see a generation today that demands quite the opposite, and times are changing, and so should marketers. 

The industry needs to step up its efforts on this through advocacy, campaigning and recognition, not just for the sake of doing it but for all the right reasons. Today, consumers or the public demand for transparency and honesty, and are quite aware of any practices of greenwashing or attempts to do so, however many societies often compromise these due to other factors such as pricing or promotions, many of which are often manipulated or deceived, and marketers are often complicit in this. 

Sri Lanka is rich in its culture, people and resources. This multidisciplinary initiative of setting an ethical framework and standards will undoubtedly go onto protect and sustain expectations and behaviors of its citizens, brands and corporations, and result in a more quality life.

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