Magazine article Marketing

A Social Agenda Where Political Gesture Is King

Magazine article Marketing

A Social Agenda Where Political Gesture Is King

Article excerpt

Ad legislation is approaching "a twilight zone of gesture politics". The root of the dilemma is a political advice industry which "addresses" problems when it should be solving them, writes Lionel Stanbrook

Advertising legislation is a very tangled web. The weavers, among whom can be counted politicians, lawyers, civil servants, lobby groups and political advisers, have at least one thing in common. They are jealous of the advertiser -- jealous of the influence that advertising appears to have on the public and jealous of the myriad opportunities offered to the public to see, hear and read advertisements.

The political classes, with some brave exceptions, see advertising as a dangerous competitor. If there's an advertising argument virtually designed to enrage them, it is that advertising creates and supports not only a free market economy but also guarantees genuine democracy and finances a free press. This is, of course, outrageous. Surely everyone knows that politicians do these things?

There is little coincidence that politicians find common ground more often with the opaque discretions of PR than with advertising. One manages and presents images; advertisements have to sell products.

You can "address" issues until the cows come home, but the advertiser always carries the can if the product doesn't sell.

The UK -- and perhaps the EC as a whole -- is in danger of gliding into a twilight zone of gesture politics. What you do not see is what you get. The French laws on tobacco and alcohol advertising are painful examples of this twilight zone; an area in which consequence and logic have long since shuffled off the coil.

In France, alcohol advertising on radio is banned on Wednesdays; "lifestyle" alcohol advertising is banned completely; the sage health warning rules the roost. The future of poster advertising of alcoholic beverages depends entirely on some bright spark coming up with a good working definition of a "zone of production".

(Poster ads are only allowed within zones of production).

This might be termed the car-sticker approach to social problems (excess alcohol consumption being a particular and notable French vice). Whether an alcohol ad ban can seriously contribute to the resolution of the problem is not seriously discussed, in France or anywhere else. …

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