CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Adland is suffering at the hands of the EC procrastinators

I seem to recall that there was once a plan to turn Europe into a barrier-free market for advertising. No longer were EU countries to be allowed to protect selfish national interests through dodgy legal tricks that needed costly and time-consuming court actions to expose. An agreed set of rules would put a stop to ad bans imposed for spurious reasons.

I seem to recall that there was once a plan to turn Europe into a

barrier-free market for advertising. No longer were EU countries to be

allowed to protect selfish national interests through dodgy legal tricks

that needed costly and time-consuming court actions to expose. An agreed

set of rules would put a stop to ad bans imposed for spurious

reasons.



Almost four years since a European Commission Green Paper acknowledged

an over-riding need for a free market in commercial communication,

Europe’s anticipated advertising utopia looks more like never-never

land. Nine years after the Greek government, in a blatant piece of

protectionism, banned toy advertising on TV, delays and obfuscation by

the Commission have ensured this flouting of the Treaty of Rome remains

untested in the European Court of Justice.



Politics have also trumped legal considerations to sustain the Loi Evin

banning alcohol advertising in France. Backstairs wheeling and dealing

and what appears to have been a deliberate obstruction of access to

justice for drinks companies keeps the ban in place.



Seven times the Commission has debated whether or not to refer the case

to the European Court. Each time it has backed off. No prizes for

predicting the outcome when it discusses the issue yet again this

month.



But the longer the Commission drags its feet, the higher the head of

frustrated steam. Lionel Stanbrook, deputy director of the Advertising

Association and a former European civil servant, told a conference on

internet advertising last week that 2000 could be the year in which

Europe’s advertisers run out of patience with all the shenanigans within

its institutions.



’It’s not that we’ve snapped and are about to throw our toys out of the

crib,’ Stanbrook says, acknowledging the limitations on the

communications industry’s ability to force change. ’But the Commission

has to realise that things are not well with us.’



How could they be when international toymakers have seen their turnover

in advertised brands drop 40 per cent in Greece, while local

manufacturers’ market share has grown from 35 to 50 per cent through

leaping on their government’s shoulders. At the same time, the

justification for the Loi Evin, a piece of legislation rushed through in

1991 in response to a high-profile road smash involving a drunken

driver, looks harder than ever to sustain.



If the Commission can’t even enforce a common set of advertising rules

without falling victim to vested interests, what hope is there for a

single market in commercial communications? Yet, without it, Europe

faces a communication ’Balkanisation’ which will not only stop the

new-media revolution in its tracks but enfeeble the continent’s major

companies competing with US and Japanese rivals on the global stage.



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).