Industry bodies attack Cameron’s “policy on the fly”

Industry bodies ISBA, Advertising Association and the IPA have all taken Tory leader David Cameron to task for his suggestion that parents should be able to complain via a specific mechanism about marketing that sexualises children.

David Cameron

Cameron (pictured) made statements yesterday that parents should be able to complain via a specifically set-up website about “offensive marketing tactics used by companies” and that “firms which flout the rules should not be allowed to bid for Government contracts for three years.”

Cameron has signalled several times in the past he is unhappy with what he perceives as inappropriate products and services targeting children.

Hamish Pringle, IPA director general, says: “This is a classic example of policy on the fly and as usual with such proposals they crash land when confronted with some facts.”

He adds: “You can’t just airbrush over nearly fifty years of the highest standards in legal, decent, honest and truthful advertising, governed by tough Codes, abided by over 95% of the time by advertisers and their agencies, and enforced by a world class self-regulator in the ASA. Cameron’s idea of a “specially set-up website” would pull the rug out from under the ASA and is clearly ill-thought-out.”

Ian Twinn of ISBA says:”Advertisers remain open to discussing any appropriate and proportionate child-protection measures and we look forward to engaging with politicians in the coming months.”

“But it is vitally important to say that the UK’s advertising codes, which we plan to reinforce and extend to cover websites, are strong. The protection the codes afford for children brings peace of mind for parents.

Pringle said that the IPA was very concerned about Cameron’s proposal that agencies that have had a complaint against one of their advertisements on the grounds of sexualisation should be banned from bidding for Government contracts for three years.

“This smacks of double jeopardy since the agency would already have been penalised by having its ad withdrawn by the ASA at considerable cost to them and their client. Fortunately the ASA data shows the incidence of this happening is so small and in these rare cases is usually perpetrated by a non-IPA, non-COI agency, for a non-ISBA client that it makes the sanction irrelevant.”

The body points out that complaint levels about sexualisation are very low and that since 2007 the ASA has only had to take action on five occasions across all media on sexualisation issues.

The complaints included the brands No Added Sugar, American Apparel, Oasis and Ryanair.

The AA said that it is happy to continue working with governments to ensure the industry adheres to “what are already the most stringent regulatory codes in the world”.

The AA points out that it has also been working with all industry bodies to extend the remit of the CAP code to encompass areas of digital media not currently covered by the non-broadcast advertising rules so companies own marketing on their own websites will be within regulatory remit. It will make announcement son this issue soon.

It said that findings in a report it published in January 2009 showed strong evidence that the commercial world is making a positive contribution to children’s lives.

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