Ad industry feels optimistic about Labour’s new broom

Britain’s agencies were preparing themselves for a ban on tobacco advertising this week, but were also anticipating the potential opportunities under Tony Blair’s new Labour Government.

Britain’s agencies were preparing themselves for a ban on tobacco

advertising this week, but were also anticipating the potential

opportunities under Tony Blair’s new Labour Government.



The party’s landslide win may result in cigarette ads being banned from

newspapers, magazines and posters. But agency chiefs hope that Labour’s

intention to forge new relationships between the private and public

sectors may bring rewards to equal those of the privatisation boom in

the 80s.



Labour’s victory has provoked speculation that the new Government may be

thinking of extending the influence of the Advertising Standards

Authority.



Even so, the industry has been warned to stay on its guard lest a

tobacco ad ban inspires other groups, particularly those campaigning for

heavier controls on confectionery promotion to children, to strengthen

their case.



Industry lobbyists, however, say they do not fear new Labour, which used

advertising and marketing to help it into office and is sympathetic to

anything that will help stimulate UK business.



John Bartle, the former president of the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising, said: ’This is the first time the industry can view a

Labour government with a reasonable degree of equanimity.’



The Advertising Association has worked to break down any mistrust

between the industry and Labour and has already established a rapport

with Margaret Beckett, the new President of the Board of Trade, and

Nigel Griffiths, who was Labour’s consumer affairs spokesman.



For the past four years, the AA has concentrated heavily on Labour,

taking stands at its annual conferences, targeting Labour election

candidates and having the Labour peer, Lord Hollick, play a key role in

presenting advertising’s case to the party.



’Labour and the industry have built a relationship and the idea of a

Labour government certainly doesn’t fill me with terror,’ Lionel

Stanbrook, the AA’s deputy director-general, said.



Privately, the industry regards tobacco advertising as a lost cause.



’It will happen quickly because it’s a cheap sop that new Labour can

offer old Labour,’ an industry source said. Yet lobbyists predict the

new Government may find the implementation of a ban complex. Sponsorship

by tobacco companies and direct mail are expected to pose problems,

while opponents of an ad ban claim that it will provoke a price war

among cigarette companies which may increase consumption rather than

reduce it.



But industry optimism is rising that Labour will open other windows of

opportunity.



’By the next election, huge advertising opportunities will have been

created which no-one has dreamed of,’ David Abraham, the St Luke’s

marketing director, said. ’On the creative side, the new Government will

mark a shift away from the lifestyle advertising of the 80s.’



Self-regulation may be put under the microscope. Winston Fletcher, the

chairman of Bozell Europe and a member of the Committee of Advertising

Practice, said he expected the Government to call for an outside report

on the effectiveness of the system within its first term.



The ASA is likely to see its power extended to labelling and packaging

in the wake of the alcopops controversy. ’Labour accepts the alcopops

row would not have arisen if advertising rules extended to other areas

of marketing,’ Stanbrook said.



Experts expect Labour to be better placed than the Conservatives to take

on Brussels. It had been feared that Labour would be more willing to use

advertising as a ’trade-off’ to win other EU concessions. Stanbrook

said: ’It’s helpful that Labour is going into Europe to make

friends.



That should make it easier for us to fight our corner.’



Leader, page 25.



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