Lift the legislative barriers to trade

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 business.

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

business.



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

cheaper brands.



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

mind.



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

trade.



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.



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