Ad watchdogs hit back at MPs

Booze

Advertising watchdogs have hit back at suggestions that the current rules on alcohol advertising are “lax” and encourage under-age drinking.

Appearing in front of the Health Select Committee last week, Advertising Standards Authority chief executive Guy Parker and Ofcom director of content and standards Kate Stross were quizzed by a committee of MPs on the role of self-regulation of alcohol advertising and the adequacy of current rules.

Responding to a suggestion that alcohol advertisers are pushing the boundaries of existing rules, Parker said the ASA “administers strict rules very strictly”.

Stross told the MPs that self-regulation is an effective approach, which calls on the “experience” of the industry, although if necessary the broadcasting regulator acts as a “back stop” to the ASA to deal with problem brands.

Parker added that self-regulation works because advertisers and media planners “want to maintain high standards in advertising”.
“If people trust the advertising and think it’s responsible then they will trust the brand,” he continued.

Parker also rejected a claim from committee member Dr Howard Stoate MP that advertising should take a “huge chunk of the blame” for the public health problems alcohol causes, and who added that banning ads could help.

“The evidence is not strong that alcohol advertising causes alcohol misuse,” said Parker, who added that there a number of factors, such as price, that influence consumption.

This latest hearing follows evidence given by alcohol retailers and producers in May on the role of supermarket, pub and bar promotions in the misuse of alcohol.

The committee will hear evidence this week from a number of advertising agencies, including JWT, and drinks makers, including Diageo, before producing a set of recommendations for the Government later this year.

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