'Aggressive marketing' played role in summer riots, says panel

A probe into the causes of last year's riots has suggested that "aggressive marketing" helped to fuel the unrest and calls for the appointment of an "independent champion" to manage a dialogue between brands and government aimed at investigating commercialism.

London riots: advertising may have contributed to last summer's disorder
London riots: advertising may have contributed to last summer's disorder

The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel said a range of factors were behind the outbreak of disorder, including an inability to prevent re-offending and issues relating to confidence in policing.

But it also highlighted the role played by consumerism. A survey of those affected by the August riots found that 85% of people feel advertising puts pressure on young people to own the latest products.

More than two-thirds of people feel materialism among young people is a problem within their local area. A similar number (70%) feel that steps need to be taken to reduce the amount of advertising aimed at young people.

The committee said: "While no one individual brand is to blame, children and young people must be protected from excessive marketing, while supporting business and not harming commerce."

To combat this, the panel recommends:

  • The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) make the impact of advertising and branding techniques on young people a feature of its new school education programme to raise resilience among children.
  • The ASA incorporates commercialism and materialism into its engagement work with young people and take action on the findings.
  • Government appoints an independent champion to manage a dialogue between Government and big brands, to further this debate.

The ASA said it would "take on board" the panel's recommendations.

The panel also says brands should "use their marketing expertise" to launch a campaign promoting positive perceptions of young people" and suggested this could take place during the Olympics.

Speaking to BBC's 'Newsnight' programme yesterday, Labour MP David Lammy MP, whose constituency covers Tottenham, North London where the riots started, said some advertising aimed at young people should be banned.

He said: "It does mean you’ve got to look again at banning advertising, particularly for young people. It’s unacceptable for the chief executive of JD Sports to say, fine, this helps my brand. There is a problem there, and actually government can do something – it can legislate to change it."

Social media and Blackberry Messenger, the secure messaging service was blamed for helping rioters to organise their movements, was applauded for helping to inform the public.

The panel said that shutting down of social networks, an idea mooted in the aftermath of the riots, would be "unhelpful".

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