OPINION: Lambasting Safeway is only political posturing

The Government has called for tighter controls on the use of children in advertising after 26 MPs complained about overtones of paedophilia in the Bates Dorland ‘Harry meets Molly’ commercial for Safeway.

The Government has called for tighter controls on the use of children in

advertising after 26 MPs complained about overtones of paedophilia in

the Bates Dorland ‘Harry meets Molly’ commercial for Safeway.



Consider these facts: this was one spot out of more than 70 ads in the

series since October 1994; it was on air for only four days; and the

campaign has twice been voted the most popular ad in Campaign’s People’s

Jury.



Given that the Independent Television Commission, in its May ruling, did

not uphold the 19 consumer complaints against the ad, it is hard to

avoid the conclusion that there is another agenda driving the

politicians.



Tony Banks, the Labour MP who has led the attack on Safeway (Campaign,

last week), has been less than enthusiastic to hear the agency’s

arguments. As he appears neither to want to ban nor to understand the

campaign, we must conclude that he has taken the opportunity for some

pre-election politicking. Advertising, once again, has become a whipping

boy for politicians.



No-one in the industry would argue against advertising’s clear

responsibility to protect the vulnerable in society. Few people

complained last year, for example, when public opinion in the US led to

the withdrawal of ads for Calvin Klein jeans, which featured young

models in provocative poses.



But the Safeway’s ad, with its gentle humour, is clearly different. The

ITC has ruled that consumer reaction to the ad is more a matter of

personal taste than of harming or exploiting children. Perhaps Banks

should produce some evidence for his advertising-as-bogeyman theory.

Until then, neither Safeway nor Dorlands has anything to apologise for.



The Advertising Association deserves full marks for its continuing

programme to educate Labour on what advertising can and cannot do, but

this episode shows that it has much work to do.



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