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
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
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
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.