Asbof raises profile in effort to boost funding

The body bankrolling the self-regulation system which polices

British advertising is stepping out of the shadows amid growing fears

that industry ignorance about what it does could threaten its

funding.



The initiative by the Advertising Standards Board of Finance follows a

survey among agency middle managers, creatives and client marketers that

revealed an alarming lack of knowledge about how self-regulation

works.



The research even found a number of creatives and marketers who believe

that the self-regulation system is funded by the Government rather than

the industry itself.



Now Asbof, which has remained virtually anonymous since its formation in

the 70s, plans to raise its profile in order to ensure the industry's

continued backing of self-regulation and that funding is in no danger of

drying up.



But Asbof chiefs this week were emphatic that their charm offensive is

not a precursor to a raising of the levy on ad campaigns, which last

year raised £5 million to finance the Advertising Standards

Authority and the rule-making Committee of Advertising Practice.



Instead, Asbof will seek to ensure the industry's continued commitment

to self-regulation with a new motto - "A small levy which makes a big

difference" - which will appear on its communications.



Winston Fletcher, the Asbof chairman, said: "At the moment our income is

very healthy but we have a situation where a lot of middle management

people in agencies and client companies either don't understand the

self-regulatory system or have no awareness of it."



Asbof raises its money via a levy of 0.01 per cent on ad campaigns

collected four times a year from agencies, media specialists, media

owners, the Royal Mail and direct marketing companies.



Most of it is used to fund the ASA, which Asbof is keen should remain as

the body synonymous with self-regulation among consumers. As a result,

Asbof wants to promote a better understanding of its work within the

industry without affecting the ASA's public profile.



Fletcher said the levy, unchanged since Asbof's formation, would not be

changed because it was well understood and because the buoyant state of

the business in recent years had allowed a surplus to build up and a

reserve of funds to be accumulated.



Nevertheless, Asbof fears a long-term threat to its financial well-being

as the number of industry people who understand what the industry body

is and does diminishes.



Asbof was set up in the mid-70s as a direct response to a public warning

by Shirley Williams, then consumer affairs minister in James Callaghan's

government, that if the ad industry failed to put its house in order,

ministers would legislate to protect consumers.



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