’TV Ads For Escort Girls’ screamed the lead headline in Tuesday’s
Daily Mail. Blimey, I’ve heard some of these girls make good money but
if they can afford TV spots, even the likes of Martin Sorrell might
start to think they’ve chosen the wrong career.
Of course, Saucy Suzy isn’t about to hire Zenith and put together a
series of commercials. One suspects this headline was another bid by the
Mail to win the hearts of those middle-Englanders who wish Queen
Victoria was still on the throne.
The real story is that the Independent Television Commission is planning
to liberalise TV advertising. This is not simply to benefit the ad sales
operations of the major broadcasters but because our TV advertising
regulations are outdated and almost certainly contravene the freedom of
speech provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights.
As a champion of consumer rights, the ITC’s decision to look at
liberalising the laws is absolutely the right thing to do, despite fears
expressed by the Mail about ads for medicine, abortion clinics and soft
Consumers are more than capable of determining the difference between an
ad for medicine and the advice they are given by their GP, and it will
still be up to those doctors to prescribe the correct drugs. One also
suspects most people can handle ads for Playboy provided they are
screened after the watershed.
How the National Viewers & Listeners’ Association can say that
advertising for soft-porn magazines, medicines and abortion clinics will
lower standards of ’honesty’ is beyond me. Surely it is more dishonest
to exclude them, effectively censoring completely legal and heavily
Harder to understand are the ITC’s proposals concerning TV sponsorship,
an ever-growing source of revenue for the TV companies’ ad sales
While it has agreed to let advertisers show pack shots - those lovely
ladies from Wella will at last be allowed to show us how they come to
have such full and bouncy locks - it has decided advertisers cannot
sponsor an individual episode from a series.
In analysing this subject (see page 9) we naturally asked the ITC to
explain this proposal. Read the explanation and see what you think but,
I have to admit, I can’t understand it. The logic seems to revolve
around ’the preservation of the editorial integrity of the programme’.
This is a noble aim but will not be achieved by restricting the
sponsorship of part of a series. The knowledge that one company is
paying a large sum to sponsor a whole TV series is more likely to
influence the programme-makers in some way, than if a number of
individual programmes have been sold to several well-suited advertisers
after the content has already been planned.