CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; The ASA is forced to judge ads using a flawed protocol

I’m probably on dodgy ground asking any of you to conjure up sympathy for the Advertising Standards Authority, but a toothless ASA confronted with the sight of the Kelvin monster in its terrible glory (Campaign, last week), is not exactly a fair fight.

I’m probably on dodgy ground asking any of you to conjure up sympathy

for the Advertising Standards Authority, but a toothless ASA

confronted with the sight of the Kelvin monster in its terrible glory

(Campaign, last week), is not exactly a fair fight.



We can all have a chuckle about Live TV’s ads featuring Princess Diana

‘kissing’ Paul Gascoigne and Will Carling; we can dismiss it as a

publicity stunt by a desperate MacKenzie; we can laugh off the Royal

Chamberlain’s intervention, and even Princess Diana complaining about

media manipulation of an image, but we’re still left with a toothless

ASA.



The advertising and media industries must decide what they want from

their self-regulatory bodies. This applies to the Broadcast Advertising

Clearance Centre too, which is subject to a lot less public griping and

controversy, for the obvious reason that it is a pre-vetting system and

so much of the debate takes place privately. The most oft-voiced

question concerning the BACC is: does it exist to serve the interests of

the public, or ITV’s larger advertisers? By and large people accept that

it does do a job - the problems with that job revolve around whether the

agency concerned agrees with the particular decision taken or not.



Compare this with the ASA. As our analysis this week makes clear (page

12), it is not only circumnavigated by ad agencies, but deliberately

abused to achieve the very thing that it is set up to help prevent:

greater exposure. The examples are innumerable, Club 18-30 and Benetton

being merely the most high profile of late. It is not the fault of the

decent and hard-working people who are employed there, and who do as

good a job as possible given the constraints, but the fault of the

system that has created those constraints.



Time and again we’re told that it is unworkable to devise a process by

which every press and poster ad is vetted in advance. And, of course, it

would be difficult. But it’s not impossible if everyone wanted it to be

that way. Perhaps we should look at the question from a different

perspective. Not how difficult would it be to set up a pre-vetting

system, but, is it meaningful to persist with a system where the

judgments are taking place long after the ads break and often after

their run has finished? The current system often results only in the

generation of yet more publicity for the ‘offenders’.



The existing situation cannot continue. At the very worst, public

pressure will force the government to intervene. The idea that agencies

should vet themselves, voiced in Campaign recently by Alastair Ritchie,

is too preposterous for words. Does advertising really believe an over-

indulged bunch of twentysomethings in Soho can act as the arbiter of

taste and decency for the nation? And News Bunnies might fly.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

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).