Should advertisers have a role in the policing of newspapers and blogs? The Marketing Society Forum

MPs have proposed that brands use their adspend to help enforce regulation of newspapers.


Advertisers already have a de facto, but unofficial, policing role. Brands' withdrawal from the News of the World was a key contributor to the title's closure, for example.

Editorial context and advertising content have a symbiotic relationship. If the former gets out of kilter with the readership, the latter becomes less effective, and clients vote with their wallets.

While the advertising industry's self-regulatory system is funded by the ASBOF/BASBOF £1 in £1000 levy on client media expenditure, it's unlikely that the replacement for the PCC will be supported financially by advertisers. Thus it will fall to the publishing industry to set its house in order and underwrite its new policeman.


Any enforcement of a code needs clear guidelines as to what is and is not acceptable. The press exposure of MPs' expenses claims in 2009 was welcomed by the public and advertisers, but was any code broken? With the phone-hacking scandal, everyone was very clear regarding unacceptable behaviour and advertisers quickly reacted.

The proposed code continues to be one of self-regulation and I would be amazed if any newspaper or social-media site worth its salt wouldn't sign up to it.

We live in a democratic society and the choice as to whether a media outlet signs up to the code or an advertiser advertises within it is theirs to make. Regulation is for government, not advertisers.


The devil is in the detail. This scheme imposes a moral obligation on major advertisers acting as one. Advertisers already pull out of inappropriate publications individually, but each advertiser's morality may not be the same.

While we all agree about the Dowler case, we may not agree about infringing the privacy of an MP or celebrity. Advertisers also have an obligation to their shareholders. If withdrawing from a publication that acts as a shop window for sales means significant losses to an advertiser's business, then this may force a conflict.

Who will referee such a conflict and is it fair to expect advertisers to enforce a broad moral code at the same time as running a business?


Without advertisers most media wouldn't exist, so it is right to recognise their importance in the ecosystem. It is in the interest of advertisers to have high levels of trust in the media, and ad revenues can give regulators a very big stick.

The government should recognise that self-regulation in advertising serves all parties well. Advertisers could ask for the quid pro quo that the government protects against those who wish to limit the freedom to advertise.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage