PERSPECTIVE: Advertising codes could benefit from newcomer’s gusto

Who do you go to if you want to complain about a depraved or tasteless television programme - Something for the Weekend, perhaps, or Changing Rooms? To the Broadcasting Standards Commission, a fine group of people who, miraculously, have not been corrupted by all the dross they’ve watched over the years, even though they know we will be.

Who do you go to if you want to complain about a depraved or

tasteless television programme - Something for the Weekend, perhaps, or

Changing Rooms? To the Broadcasting Standards Commission, a fine group

of people who, miraculously, have not been corrupted by all the dross

they’ve watched over the years, even though they know we will be.



How about if you want to have a rant about the Independent Television

Commission and the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre? Hmm, that’s a

trickier one. Rant too loudly, some fear, and your next script might get

an instant thumbs down from the BACC.



Unperturbed, the advertising law firm, Lewis Silkin, recently put

together a potentially combustible seminar at which the ITC’s new

director of advertising and sponsorship, Stephen Locke, addressed an

audience of mostly agency people with a few media owners and clients

thrown in for good measure.



Historically, the ITC and agencies have been uncomfortable bedfellows -

a fact of which Locke is painfully aware as he sets his sights on

revising the advertising code of standards by next summer. He is very

keen to get everyone on board - or, in regulator-speak, to ’build links

with stakeholders’.



Part of the lack of understanding lies with definitions. The ITC exists

to regulate once a commercial is on air, and the BACC vets commercials

for suitability before they go on air.



Although the BACC is interpreting ITC rules, they represent separate

fiefdoms. But for many agency people the ITC and the BACC are one and

the same: wearisome but unavoidable, inflexible and inconsistent, petty

and bureaucratic.



Locke, full of the newcomer’s zeal for reform, throws some interesting

light on how the advertising code could be modernised. We need new rules

for the amount and scheduling of advertising; we need to improve the

efficiency of handling the 8,000-plus cases a year brought before the

ITC and the BACC; to end up with a code which focuses on achievements,

not prescriptive rules; to come up with a workable framework for

sponsorship credits. (Bizarrely, while consumers see sponsorship as

advertising, these don’t count as advertising minutage, nor is there

pre-vetting of sponsorship credits as there is for commercials.)



All this is fine, in the sense that we should end up with an advertising

code that is shorter, more accountable, more consistent, clearer and in

plain English - a disaster, in short, for advertising lawyers but jolly

good news for agencies and clients. The question is, where does the

money come from to improve the services offered, say, by the cumbersome

BACC?



Perhaps, it was suggested, the ITC should require its licensees to cough

up more money. Codes aside, that would make a real difference.



caroline.marshall@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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