Media Week - An unhealthy dose of politicking in Government ad ban tactics

So, the Government has made the advertising industry an offer it can’t refuse.

Its decision to allow the industry to “self-regulate” is sophistry at best.

Clearly the Government is forcing the industry to give it exactly what it wants by making the threat of regulation so crude that advertisers have no choice but to comply.

As has been pointed out elsewhere in this magazine, advertisers and agencies effectively have to negotiate the terms of surrender.

This is good PR for the Government as the press coverage demonstrated.

The advertising industry is an easy target. But it’s really not credible to place the bulk of the blame for the wider social problem of childhood obesity and the growing health problem at the feet of the sector.

Advertisers don’t determine the diet of children. Parents still bear responsibility in that area. And there are plenty of societal factors too.

The biggest single cause is exercise – or rather the lack of it.

Cultural shifts mean that the average kid is far less active today.

They get driven to school rather than walk. And the nearest that many get to sports is the Sony PlayStation.

However, that’s not a vote-winning message for the Government to give out. Simpler to bash the advertising industry instead.

This is the same Government, of course, that makes much of its business-friendly credentials. Yet who on earth does it think these evil advertisers are? They’re the very same people.

The ad industry has particular reason to feel bruised, considering its excellent track record on self-regulation.

Pester-power marketing has long been discredited.

And the work of the alcohol industry funded Portman Group, which encourages responsible drinking, is another case study in responsible behaviour.

This isn’t even the thin end of the wedge. That came with the ban on tobacco advertising.

But nor is it the end.

After forcing this restriction, the Government will be looking for another populist triumph.

After further restrictions, what next? Don’t bet against a tax on advertising.

Whatever it might claim, this Government is not advertiser friendly.

At least now it’s in the open.

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