Magazine article Marketing

Why No Euro Vision?

Magazine article Marketing

Why No Euro Vision?

Article excerpt

European Union rules could transform the marketing industry. So why is nobody bothered? Laura Mazur reports

In September, John Hooper, director general of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), held a workshop at the Marketing Forum to brief UK marketers on the far-reaching impact of European legislation. Of the 550 or so marketers on board, half a dozen at the most showed up to be briefed on Brussels.

Admittedly, hearing about complex legislative issues can be about as interesting as watching paint dry and many UK marketing directors have only UK responsibilities. But that lack of attendance signalled something more fundamental and more worrying: that too many UK marketers are failing to look beyond their day-to-day preoccupations to find out what Brussels has in store for their industry.

As-Hooper points out, anyone who markers goods or services in Europe, or is considering a pan-European launch in the future, or is simply conducting business in even one other European market, cannot afford to disregard the influence that European Union (EU) legislation will have on business. "To turn a blind eye to the goings-on in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg is tantamount to commercial suicide. At the EU legislative level no company is safe when it comes to promoting, advertising, packaging and labelling a particular product," he says.

David Haigh of Brand Finance, a marketing accountability specialist, says: "I don't think some British companies have realised the significance of what is going on. We are still labouring under the illusion that everything is run from here. And the UK government's rhetoric about how it runs the UK fuels people's complacency. But the belief that what happens in Brussels is peripheral is obviously untrue."

The EU has an obligation to further the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. However, Hooper advises advertisers to bear in mind a number of key points:

* Many different directorates and committees, each with its own not necessarily reconcilable objectives and priorities, can get involved in legislation affecting advertisers. For example, the directive on broadcasting currently wending its way through the process has had input from European Parliamentary committees on legal and economic affairs, the environment, and the youth and culture committee.

* One piece of legislation can have an unexpected domino or knock-on effect on other related or non-related areas.

* Advertising has many enemies at the EU level, which is why bodies like ISBA and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) lobby hard to justify its case as an essential element in the freedom to market and distribute legal goods.

There is another vital issue for marketers to address. Over the past two years the Commission has carried out a Europe-wide consultation exercise on the communications industry which has resulted in a Green Paper. Hooper calls this "the single most important document to come out of the Commission concerning our business environment".

The main thrust of the paper is to question why there are such major differences in the way EU countries regulate communications. The Commission is now in the midst of gathering reactions to the paper.

Market forces

The position of the advertisers is that the only way to have a truly single market in communications is to standardise regulations across the EU. But ranged against them are powerful and vociferous lobby groups such as consumer organisations which want to see communications only allowed according to each country's laws--as happens now.

The worry for bodies like ISBA is that few individual companies or marketing directors have bothered to respond to the Commission. As Hooper says: "It is a head count issue. The Commission wants to see responses from real marketers and companies as well as trade bodies. But we are frankly having great difficulty persuading marketing directors and chief executives to lend their support to this. …

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