The Advertising Association is right to urge Tony Blair’s
government to put freedom of commercial communication on its agenda for
its presidency of the European Union. For too many of us the workings of
Brussels are too tedious to bother with - but they affect our
livelihoods and all of us, marketers and agencies, need to stand four
square behind the AA as it campaigns against unfair restrictions on our
This Thursday a group of little-known politicians and lawyers will meet
to decide whether certain countries have broken EU law. In particular,
they will be looking at the Greek ban on advertising toys and the French
Loi Evin, which prohibits alcohol advertising.
Cynics might say that the Loi Evin does nothing but prevent the
advertising of imported drinks, since it relies on complaints being
registered and few if any seem to have been about local wines and
champagnes. Neither is there any evidence that the law has reduced
drinking. All it appears to have done, in fact, is switch consumption to
Since the law came into effect in 1991, the fastest-growing French
drinks sector has been own-label, high-strength volume lagers. At the
same time, whisky has overtaken traditional aniseed-based spirits. We
suspect neither of these effects were what the French government had in
Something similar has happened in Greece, where the cutting off of
revenue from toy advertisers has reduced budgets for children’s
television programming, leading inexorably to a diet of cheap cartoons
imported from the US.
Both these pieces of state legislation - and there are many others like
them - prevent the EU from being a truly open market. What’s worse, they
represent a hangover from the days when governments tried to regulate
every aspect of our lives. They’re days which we in the UK thought we’d
left behind - until the recent and worrying moves by Labour - but it
seems state control of what we see, hear and buy is very much alive
elsewhere in the EU.
If your business is marketing communication, it’s simply not possible to
do business on the same basis in all of the member states. Time, we
think, for the UK, where advertising and marketing are strong
contributors to our commercial success, to take a lead in ending the
growth of local legislation which goes against the spirit of free
If we must have regulations - and the fewer the better - then let’s at
least all have the same ones.
You can read the full text of the Advertising Association’s submission
to ministers on Marketing Online at http://www. marketing.haynet.com.