Fringe meetings on marketing issues at the Labour Party Conference

LONDON - The Labour Party Conference spawned a host of marketing-related events.

Gordon Brown's 'make-or-break' speech, which was swiftly followed by transport secretary Ruth Kelly's resignation, was the most notable event of the past week's Labour Party Conference in Manchester.

Nonetheless, away from the main hall, fringe sessions buzzed with debate about marketing, communication and corporate responsibility. Below, we outline the main issues covered.

Advertising's effect on children

The Prime Minister's only mention of advertising in his main speech to the conference was negative. He sought to reassure the nation that he understood the fears of modern life by saying: 'There are new pressures on parents - worrying about balancing work and family life, but also about advertising aimed straight at their children.'

However, there seems to be a consensus forming across Whitehall over the banning of alcohol ads before 9pm, in the marketing industry's favour. Culture secretary Andy Burnham is not convinced by the arguments made by Alcohol Concern and others that the ad ban is necessary to protect children. He told Marketing: 'Some people forget that it isn't the same as when they were growing up. These days children get messages from lots of places, not just TV.'


Asda and the Co-op were out in force

showing the positive face of retailing. Asda's corporate affairs director, Paul Kelly, used a series of sessions to posit-ion the company as a champion of deprived communities and smooth the way for its expansion in the South East.

At a Co-op-sponsored event on responsible retailing, meanwhile, Labour peer Lord Whitty criticised Marks & Spencer for refusing to remove confectionery from its check-out area.

Supermarkets, however, received support from consumer affairs minister Gareth Thomas. When a questioner from the floor decried grocers' use of alcohol as a loss-leader, he sprang to their defence. 'We shouldn't stop them competing on price, even on alcohol,' he said. 'We have to allow competition.'

Byron Review

The review, by Dr Tanya Byron, the TV presenter and psychologist, looked at the risks to children from exposure to harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. It was referenced in several sessions.

During a T-Mobile and NSPCC event entitled 'Protecting children in a digital age,' the mobile operator's chief executive, Jim Hyde, advocated a system of self-regulation as the best way to achieve this aim.

Rob Williams, the deputy children's commissioner, called on the govern-ment to invest in search marketing.

He gave the example of a vulnerable child searching online for 'suicide', and hoped the investment would lead to them finding a positive message rather than unsuitable content. 'I would like to see the government contest that website space a bit more,' he added.

In an event organised by the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, the video-game trade body argued that giving the British Board of Film Classification more powers in age-rating games would fuel piracy by delaying the time it takes to get titles to market.

Healthy eating/nutritional labelling

The battle between proponents of guideline daily amounts (GDAs) and traffic-light nutritional labelling systems continued.

Food Standards Agency chairwoman Deidre Hutton pledged to back which-ever system fared best in consumer research due for publication next year.

Outside of the food industry, which favours GDAs, there is a groundswell of support for the traffic-light scheme.

Elsewhere, Baby Milk Action's director Patti Rundall, a long-standing thorn in Nestle's side, turned her wrath on Danone, which sponsored an event on toddler obesity at the conference. Rundall launched an attack on the com-pany demanding that it withdraw its follow-on 'Goodnight Milk' formula because it 'undermines breast-feeding and encourages obesity'.

Key fringes

Title: Organiser(s)

  • YouTube and elections: YouTube
  • Food prices: how high can they go?: Climate Clinic, Friends of the Earth, Sustain, New Economics Foundation
  • Responsible retailing: a contradiction in terms : The Co-operative Group
  • Nanny knows best: should the government do more to enforce healthier lifestyles?: Social Market Foundation, Food Standards Agency
  • British food chain: fit for purpose for the future?: British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, National Farmers' Union
  • Byron on video games: 'bang off target': Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association
  • Beating obesity: what about our toddlers?: The Smith Institute, Nutricia
  • Protecting children in a digital age: T-Mobile, NSPCC


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