Britain's advertising agencies are being urged to join forces with
their clients to head off what is being seen as the most serious threat
to advertising freedom ever mounted.
The IPA fears that the agenda set by the anti-advertising lobby extends
far beyond a ban on advertising to children to the outlawing of the
promotion of large cars and off-road vehicles and even ads that are
judged to be encouraging "conspicuous consumption".
The trade body issued a rallying cry this week amid fears that the
industry is growing complacent after Sweden's failure to get its
domestic ban on TV advertising to children extended across Europe.
IPA chiefs fear pressure groups are well placed to take advantage of
Europe's advertising lobby weakened by the departure of two of its
leading figures. Lionel Stanbrook, a European specialist, quit as deputy
director-general of the Advertising Association last year. And the
European Association of Communication Agencies has not replaced Stig
Carlson, its director-general, who died in March.
Industry lobbying activity in the UK has traditionally been co-ordinated
by the AA but Bruce Haines, the IPA president, insisted the initiative
was no reflection on it. "This isn't a war with the AA," he said. "It's
just that we want to get more involved in formulating strategy and
enlist more help from our clients."
The IPA's action is in response to a number of perceived threats.
Although there has been no Europe-wide action to curb advertising to
children, major toy manufacturers fear they are losing the battle by
degrees in member states.
Snack food advertising to children is also under attack but some
government bodies favour taxing such advertising or reducing advertising
spend levels to the same as "healthy" items such as fruit and
vegetables. Meanwhile, alcohol advertising could be severely curtailed
in the next EU Broadcast Directive.
Hamish Pringle, the IPA director-general, said: "A lot of resource has
gone into supporting the case for food and children's advertising but
those battles have not been won and new fronts are opening up."
By enlisting the help of top clients, the IPA hopes to sustain the
support of Spain, a country traditionally sympathetic to ad industry
interests, when it assumes the EU presidency next spring. It also wants
to make advertising's case strongly in advance of next year's World
Summit on Sustainable Development.
In a report to the IPA, Mike Longhurst, the McCann-Erickson senior
vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, warned: "If the
summit concludes that advertising is to blame for causing excess
consumption, governments will get a mandate to tax it, restrict it or
ban it in contentious areas."
Haines said the aim was to open a dialogue with rival pressure
"We would like to engage in debate rather than confrontation," he added.