Agencies are set to be given greater creative freedom in the
advertising of medicines to reflect changing public attitudes to taste
The Proprietary Association of Great Britain is considering a relaxation
of its rules to allow pharmaceutical advertising to match that of other
consumer products more closely.
A PAGB working party is discussing a possible change as part of a
revised advertising code due to be published early next year.
But Sheila Kelly, the director-general of the PAGB, said: ’My attitude
is that if it’s acceptable for mainstream advertising it should be fine
for medical work too.’
The move has been prompted partly by the growing number of medicines
being switched from presciptions to over-the-counter sales.
At the same time, many newly launched over-the-counter products cannot
be promoted with doctors’ endorsements and have to rely instead on
memorable advertising to make their mark with consumers.
The issue has also been highlighted by two controversial medical ads
that provoked complaints to advertising watchdogs.
One was for Pro-Plus, a pick-me-up product produced by Roche Consumer
Health, that appeared in the magazine, Loaded. Complaints that the ad
exceeded the bounds of good taste were upheld by the Advertising
The other was a TV ad for Hedex, a SmithKline Beecham headache remedy,
that featured a couple in bed and led to complaints to the Independent
Television Commission because it included bullfighting scenes.
Now the PAGB, which pre-vets all pharmaceutical advertising, wants to
bring its code more closely into line with that of the ASA, which takes
account of where contentious ads are appearing and who will see
Kelly said: ’We have to take changing circumstances into account and the
aim of the review is to be less restrictive. But it does mean that we’ll
have to be prepared to tolerate a level of complaints.’
The working group, consisting of industry, agency and PR
representatives, will present its recommendations in the autumn.