IPA rallying cry to save advertising freedoms

Britain's advertising agencies are being urged to join forces with

their clients to head off what is being seen as the most serious threat

to advertising freedom ever mounted.



The IPA fears that the agenda set by the anti-advertising lobby extends

far beyond a ban on advertising to children to the outlawing of the

promotion of large cars and off-road vehicles and even ads that are

judged to be encouraging "conspicuous consumption".



The trade body issued a rallying cry this week amid fears that the

industry is growing complacent after Sweden's failure to get its

domestic ban on TV advertising to children extended across Europe.



IPA chiefs fear pressure groups are well placed to take advantage of

Europe's advertising lobby weakened by the departure of two of its

leading figures. Lionel Stanbrook, a European specialist, quit as deputy

director-general of the Advertising Association last year. And the

European Association of Communication Agencies has not replaced Stig

Carlson, its director-general, who died in March.



Industry lobbying activity in the UK has traditionally been co-ordinated

by the AA but Bruce Haines, the IPA president, insisted the initiative

was no reflection on it. "This isn't a war with the AA," he said. "It's

just that we want to get more involved in formulating strategy and

enlist more help from our clients."



The IPA's action is in response to a number of perceived threats.

Although there has been no Europe-wide action to curb advertising to

children, major toy manufacturers fear they are losing the battle by

degrees in member states.



Snack food advertising to children is also under attack but some

government bodies favour taxing such advertising or reducing advertising

spend levels to the same as "healthy" items such as fruit and

vegetables. Meanwhile, alcohol advertising could be severely curtailed

in the next EU Broadcast Directive.



Hamish Pringle, the IPA director-general, said: "A lot of resource has

gone into supporting the case for food and children's advertising but

those battles have not been won and new fronts are opening up."



By enlisting the help of top clients, the IPA hopes to sustain the

support of Spain, a country traditionally sympathetic to ad industry

interests, when it assumes the EU presidency next spring. It also wants

to make advertising's case strongly in advance of next year's World

Summit on Sustainable Development.



In a report to the IPA, Mike Longhurst, the McCann-Erickson senior

vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, warned: "If the

summit concludes that advertising is to blame for causing excess

consumption, governments will get a mandate to tax it, restrict it or

ban it in contentious areas."



Haines said the aim was to open a dialogue with rival pressure

groups.



"We would like to engage in debate rather than confrontation," he added.



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