I read with interest your curious Leader (March 15).
“Advertising” is indeed identified by various single-issue pressure groups as “the main culprit”, but they would be wrong. Advertising is merely the most easily identifiable and visible aspect of the marketing industry; pressure (as opposed to public) group complaints about ads are motivated by a disapproval of the products and services being marketed.
I notice that the approach of marketers can often leave something to be desired. Indeed, the marketing literature for your own “Advertising and marketing to children 96” conference describes children as “a marketer’s dream recipe of profit potential” in an effort to attract participants to the conference.
The ad industry is more often accused of being too defensive, an accusation often made by the single-issue groups themselves. It is not by nature aggressive in its external relations, although presumably we will continue to be allowed to seek to correct deliberately misleading propositions – the stock-in trade of the National Food Alliance. The Advertising Association is certainly determined to argue for the validity of commercial advocacy as a practice.
Your editorial and conference literature reflects the gap between public/media perceptions and marketing practice that needs to be bridged urgently. “Eighty eight per cent of press ads” did not breach the guidelines. This figure represents the NFA’s opinion: it is not a statement of fact and it is not true.
The Food Advertising Unit was not created in recognition of any “coming war”: it was created to help explain what food advertising can and cannot do in an environment subject to the misleading claims of a politically-motivated agenda.
You are also wrong in your starry-eyed appreciation of consumerist tactics: the NFA has been attacking the ASA for years, and has failed to sustain this pressure in the long campaign to ban TV advertising to children. Now it turns its attention to slimming foods advertising in the hope this might be an easier target.
You are inviting a “war”: I see only the need to correct misleading and unfair campaigns, whether inspired by commercial, editorial or political considerations.
Director of legislative & political issues
The Advertising Association
Last week’s Leader, far from being “curious”, was an attempt to provoke debate on what is an increasingly controversial area – presumably the Advertising Association, which created a food unit last year, would agree. It is not enough for the ad industry to dismiss, out of hand, pressure groups like the National Food Alliance. The NFA is calling for the ASA to enforce its code. It is a genuine issue. Not one to be complacently marginalised in the “curious” category – Editor