Two of the advertising industry’s leading bodies are on a collision
course over the banning of the Conservative Party’s poster depicting the
Labour leader, Tony Blair, with demon eyes (Campaign, 30 August).
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is pressing for a review
of the rules by which the Advertising Standards Authority regulates
political advertising. The current rules, it claims, are being used in a
way that was never intended.
Some IPA executives fear that, by condemning the Blair ad, the ASA has
allowed itself to become a ‘political football’ and that the run-up to
the general election will see it deluged with complaints from
parliamentary candidates about rivals’ advertising.
Nick Phillips, the IPA’s director general, said: ‘The danger is that the
ASA will be pulled into no-man’s land and get caught in the crossfire.’
The ASA said this week that the Committee of Advertising Practice would
be prepared to examine the regulations but ruled out any immediate
changes that might prove to be unfair.
The controversy over the M&C Saatchi poster has led to strident public
criticism from within the industry of the ASA’s performance.
Philip Circus, the IPA’s legal affairs director, has been particularly
vociferous. On BBC2’s Newsnight and the radio programme, You and Yours,
he questioned the ASA’s ruling and alleged the authority showed a lack
As a result, Lord Rodgers, the ASA chairman, has written to John Bartle,
the IPA president, asking if Circus speaks for himself or the IPA as a
‘We’re supposed to have a system of self-regulation, not imposed
regulation,’ Circus said this week.
But Caroline Crawford, the ASA’s communications director, hit back:
‘There are established channels of communication. It’s sad he doesn’t
choose to use them.’
Industry experts say the ASA’s decision on the Blair poster reflects the
confused rules on political advertising. Andrew Robertson, Abbott Mead
Vickers BBDO’s managing director, who represents the IPA on the
Committee of Advertising Practice, said some member agencies felt
political ads should be excluded from the ASA’s remit.