OPINION: Ad industry must argue against Euro regulation

Those who defend advertising against the ‘heinous and deranged’ Eurocrats like to cite the domino effect as justification. For those with short memories, the term was coined by the Americans to rationalise the Vietnam War. If Vietnam fell to the communists, they said, then Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, and goodness knows where, would soon follow. Hmmm.

Those who defend advertising against the ‘heinous and deranged’

Eurocrats like to cite the domino effect as justification. For those

with short memories, the term was coined by the Americans to rationalise

the Vietnam War. If Vietnam fell to the communists, they said, then

Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, and goodness knows where, would soon

follow. Hmmm.



But that is not to say that the theory doesn’t apply to the European

Parliament and its various attacks on advertising and the media

(Campaign, last week). So far, the European Union, in its various

guises, has sniped at a number of areas of advertising - from regulating

minutage to imposing EC-sourced programme quotas on broadcasters, and

from tobacco to alcohol and toys. It hasn’t succeeded yet, but that

doesn’t mean the threat has receded. As a high-profile business, with a

soft underbelly, advertising will always be an easy target.



Whingeing about the iniquities of the EU and European Parliament won’t

solve the problem. But making a considered and consistent case for

advertising, and its role in society and the economy, would limit the

damage. The trouble is, nobody really does this. By shrouding itself in

mystique and choosing opacity over transparency, the ad industry - and

that includes advertisers - is offering itself up as a target to

regulators, legislators and the media.



Recently, a TV researcher contacted Campaign in connection with a

current affairs programme about alcohol and advertising. No agency or

client, it seemed, was happy to appear on the programme. In this

context, are we surprised that legislators go for advertising? For an

industry that is all about communications, it actually does a very bad

job of putting across its arguments to a key target audience of MPs,

Euro MPs and opinion-formers. Prevention, as we know, is better than a

cure, so maybe the advertising industry should take the initiative and

make its case rather than waiting for yet another attack.



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