Torin Douglas’s suggestion (MW June 3) that advertising is under greater threat than at any time in the past 30 years makes good copy, but is not actually true.
Take the end of the Eighties, for instance. There was a concerted campaign by Action on Alcohol Abuse to ban alcohol advertising in the wake of the “lager lout” phe
nomenon. Pharmaceutical advertising was under pressure and food advertising, like now, was also under attack.
Worse still, it was Labour Party policy to replace self-regulation with statutory controls. The trade secretary told the then ASA chairman that he would end self- regulation if the ASA continued to allow him and his cabinet colleagues to be featured in advertisements without their consent. And if that wasn’t enough, television advertisements were under fire for being too noisy compared with programmes.
Advertising has always been an easy target for attack, but in many ways the industry is in stronger shape now than it has ever been. There is widespread acceptance of the positive role of advertising in the economy. And self-regulation is now accepted as a valuable partner in consumer protection – to such an extent that advertisers are now on the verge of a co-regulatory regime with Ofcom for broadcast advertising – something which, only a few years ago, one prominent industry figure said would not happen in his lifetime.
Legal affairs director
Institute of Sales Promotion