Magazine article Marketing

Is the ASA Keeping Up with Changing Tastes?

Magazine article Marketing

Is the ASA Keeping Up with Changing Tastes?

Article excerpt

The ASA has begun a review of its working methods to deal with complaints quicker and reduce advertiser conflicts. Craig Smith asks whether the overhaul will succeed

The Advertising Standards Authority has a new chairman. Come January, the watchdog will be led by Lord Borrie QC, a former director-general at the Office of FairTrading.

Winston Fletcher, in his role as chairman of ASA-financier the Advertising Standards Board of Finance, has said: "[Lord Borrie] is supremely well qualified and will give confidence to all who wish to see advertising self-regulation succeed." But will he?

In September, the ASA announced a wide-ranging review of its working methods. It wants to deal with complaints more quickly. It wants to show the government it is ready and able to police all forms of advertising. And it wants to reduce friction with advertisers.

Ironically, one of the watchdog's most high-profile spats is about teeth. SmithKline Beecham is to challenge in the High Court the ASA decision that its Ribena Toothkind ad made misleading oral health claims. It argues that the ASA was not equipped to evaluate the claims.

The 90s saw the ASA, along with pre-vetting body the Committee of Advertising Practice, change to keep up with industry developments. There were new sanctions to tackle shock posters; it now covers online ads; and party political ads have been dropped from its remit.

We asked two marketers whether the ASA is ensuring the system of self-regulation works. Rupert Howell, president of the IPA, was one of the founding partners of 90s agency of the decade HHCL & Partners and now chief executive of Chime Communications Judy Mitchem is new business director at M&C Saatchi, which created the 'nipple' ad for vogue.com. The ASA received 83 complaints about this ad, but ruled in its favour as it "was neither likely to cause ...offence nor unsuitable to be seen by children".

DIAGNOSIS

The ASA is in robust health. It is highly regarded in the industry for its even-handedness and fair approach to the regulation of advertising. My only minor criticism is that sometimes it can be a bit slow, but that is more a funding issue.

It is a watchdog which has the respect of the industry it polices, and that is incredibly important. It doesn't embarrass miscreants if they are one-off offenders, but is prepared to get tough with those who are repeat transgressors. Sometimes other watchdogs, such as the ITC, seem to look for a campaign medal for telling off advertisers over particular campaigns. …

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