Marketing industry steps up fight to keep self-regulation

The marketing industry's ongoing battle to prevent tighter government regulation has been boosted by the launch of several initiatives encouraging responsible practices.

Over the past week, said to be one of the most significant for the promotion of the industry's responsibility credentials, key figures have updated Prime Minister David Cameron on how they are progressing on meeting relevant recommendations made in the Bailey Review. The report, into the commercialisation of childhood and premature sexualisation of children, was published in June.

Former COI chief executive Mark Lund, Advertising Association chief executive Tim Lefroy and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) chief executive Guy Parker were among those to brief the prime minister on the latest guidelines restricting the employment of under-16s as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.

Also explained to Cameron was a pledge by the ASA to take a 'firmer line' when considering complaints about 'sexualised imagery' in outdoor advertising where children are likely to see it.

To coincide with the Downing Street summit, Parentport.org.uk, a website on which consumers can complain about anything in the media they feel to be inappropriate, went live. The ASA, Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission are among the regulators managing the site.

The creation of the site was another recommendation of the Bailey Review and is designed to ease the complaints process by directing parents to the most appropriate media regulator to deal with their particular case.

Later in the week, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley unveiled a plan to work with food and drink brands in an effort to take 5bn calories out of the nation's daily diet by 2020.

The scheme, revealed by Marketing last month (14 September), echoes a similar project in the US involving Kellogg, PepsiCo and Unilever, among other manufacturers.

The companies have yet to individually respond to the plan, but trade body the Food and Drink Federation, to which all the biggest food and soft drink brands belong, committed to 'play its part in supporting people to achieve an appropriate calorie intake and a healthy lifestyle'.

In addition, alcohol industry body the Portman Group has opened a consultation aimed at examining the case for stricter drinks marketing rules as part of the alcohol-related Responsibility Deal.

Under consideration is whether sponsorship deals should incorporate a social-responsibility element, and the extension of the Portman Group's code to cover retailer-led co-promotions and public relations activity.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: 'The marketing environment in which we live is under constant change and it is important that the code contains no regulatory gaps.'

IN MY VIEW EXPERT COMMENT

Tim Lefroy, Chief executive, Advertising Association

"Last week's summit was encouraging.

"We have moved on from accusations of 'irresponsible and reckless' behaviour to recognition that advertising and brands play an important role. The prime minister made it clear, however, that we must stay in touch with our responsibilities.

"Specific initiatives are part of this story, but more important is the culture of responsive, responsible behaviour that permeates this industry. As far back as 1903, the Thirty Club was promoting the 'betterment of advertising'. It's an agenda that feels as relevant today as it ever has. We ignore it at our peril."

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