A week of funerals, bouquets and whipping boys
A view from Ian Darby

A week of funerals, bouquets and whipping boys

That funeral really had an impact. Richard E Grant leaving a bouquet of vegetables outside the church in memory of Richard Griffiths, Uncle Monty in Withnail And I, was a truly moving touch.

Thoughts had moved on to Griffiths’ excellent turn as Henry Crabbe in Pie In The Sky before events of last week brought back one of his lines from Withnail: "Shat on by Tories, shovelled up by Labour." Advertising should take note. Throw in "disregarded by the Coalition" and we’re just about there.

Advertising has made great strides in recent months, with the Advertising Association spelling out that the business contributes £100 billion to UK GDP each year. It contributes heartily to the economy and to the tapestry of everyday life.

Yet there’s always some pressure group lining up to take shots at advertising professionals. On the one hand, you should be flattered: this shows you’re doing a good job. On the other: it’s getting a mite tedious.

The latest bunch is a ragbag of academics, authors and a Green MP called "Leave Our Kids Alone". When not listening to Pink Floyd albums, they found time to write a letter to The Daily Telegraph calling for a ban on all advertising targeting primary-school children or younger. They seem concerned that their youngsters could be exposed to ads promoting such horrifying things as toys, sweets, clothing and video games.

They want curbs on TV, magazine and web ads to protect the young and claim that advertising is impacting children’s "well-being", citing an "iniquitous" ad industry that uses "manipulation" and "pester power" to flog products. The Advertising Standards Authority pointed out that it has robust rules relating to the exposure of children to advertising and ISBA has also stoutly defended the behaviour of advertisers.

There are other reasons why this mob won’t get far. Its argument is based on flimsy evidence and it has already attracted derision from a rival "just say no" crowd who say that stronger parenting would work better than a ban on advertising. Nevertheless, the latest intervention adds to a groundswell of attacks against advertising that seem to have fulminated in a broader movement against so-called "consumerism".

Make the point that advertising is a responsible business that contributes to the greater good

The majority of this bunch appear to be looking for a scapegoat on which to blame societal ills. Advertising seems to occupy that whipping-boy position right now, so brands, agencies and trade bodies should remain on their guard. Be honest, name and shame any brands and agencies that break the rules, and continue to make the point that advertising is a responsible business that contributes to the greater good.

That way, even governments obsessed by votes will be handing out bouquets rather than dumping on you.