Better research needed to win debate on ad restrictions

Leaders of Britain's ad industry have vowed to beef up their research programmes to oppose the pressure groups laying siege to the business.

Members of the Advertising Association council last week agreed that more "action-oriented" research was needed to counter what they regard as the often flimsy arguments put forward by lobbyists to support further advertising restrictions. They are also considering becoming involved in the inquiry being set up by the Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, on marketing to children.

However, the scale of the industry's task has been borne out by newly published research. Of more than 36,000 Britons questioned, 86 per cent said they supported restrictions on the advertising of food high in sugar, salt or fat content.

The survey, by Lightspeed Research, found similar majorities across Europe.

Meanwhile, leading figures are pressing the industry to adopt a cohesive strategy to make its case and not pursue individual agendas.

"There is a real sense of energy among our members and a willingness to be proactive," Peta Buscombe, the AA's chief executive, said. "But we know we can only make progress if we speak with one voice."

The AA's initiative follows last month's "brainstorming" meeting at the IPA, which involved representatives of the major trade bodies, senior clients and agency chiefs.

They discussed the need for hiring PR professionals, having acknowledged that the industry had few allies, that advertising was "a brand under pressure" and that the industry's own communications were "very dull and not engaging".

Delegates were warned that they must stop sounding "angry and defensive" and should learn to talk to the public, particularly young people, in a more down-to-earth way.

Meanwhile, the AA council has endorsed Campaign's Action for Ads online petition, and is urging representatives of AA-affiliated organisations to sign it.

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