Should the ASA be given the power to fine errant advertisers?

In a recent survey of members of consumer organisation Which?, 92% of respondents said they were in favour of giving the Advertising Standards Authority the power to levy financial penalties

No

Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising, ISBA

 

ISBA's members believe in and support the ASA and the codes it upholds.

They consider it an effective and prop-ortion-ate alternative to the heavier burden of statutory regulation.There is no doubt, however, that less scrupul-ous advertisers repeatedly flout the codes and might sometimes deserve to face tougher, perhaps financial, penalties.

Both of the ASA's 'backstop' regulat-ors - Ofcom for broadcast advertising and the OFT for non-broadcast - and the courts already have powers to imp-ose financial penalties.

The ASA's authority springs from its focused investigation of complaints, its power over advertisers seeking to avoid reputational damage and the media owners' agreement to comply with its decisions by not running offending ads.

There will always be exceptions that test the system, but ISBA believes that this provides an effective framework in which its member advertisers can ope-rate with confidence. ISBA therefore does not believe that the ASA needs the power to impose financial penalties.

 

No

Tom Davis, marketing director, Action for Children

 

Fines would be excessive, punish creativity and may ultimately under-mine the legal principle of making equal restitution for damage done.

I think that a system of financial pen-alties could lead to unhelpful behaviour such as 'pre-censorship' of ideas and exe-cutions. Generally, anything that leads in the direction of fines and, potentially, litigation is a bad idea.

As for the ASA being given powers to police website claims, this falls more pro-p-erly into the wider area of consu-mer protection, on which some work certainly does need to be done.

I would much rather see the ASA being given powers to require other things of organisations breaching the regulations, which could go outside the realm of advertising.

This could include addressing any offence given by invol-ving complain-ants directly in the process, and a requirement to offer aggrieved parties free advertising or creative.


No

Rebecca Morgan, chief strategy officer/managing partner, Lowe London

 

We live in a world of self-regulation. In that sense, the ASA was light years ahead when it was set up, and this would be a retrograde step.

If you believe in the power of the con-sumer, with information so available and consumer response and comment-ary so direct, brand and product claims are obliged to be robust and have integ-rity or there will be a lobby group on Facebook faster than you can say ASA.

We have a consumer-built regulator. There is already a huge amount of regulation elsewhere, including very conservative client legal departments in my experience, so apart from the tricky logistics of actually following this through, why add another layer?

The ASA should use the influence it has to have offending pieces removed, but should concentrate on getting faster at it. This seems to me a much more contemporary and effective move. I don't think there is a creativity argument here - ultimately regulation can both stifle and generate creativity: it depends on how you look at it. 

 

Yes

Brendan Tansey, chief executive, Wunderman

I think it can only be good if, as an indus-try, we are held more accountable for the impact on society of the claims we make. This degree of self-regulation (with real teeth) will counter calls for greater external regulation and encour-age increased rigour around what we put into market.

As long as the judicial process at the ASA is transparent and open to appeal what do we have to fear? It will force all practitioners to train staff appropriately and consider the content of campaigns more carefully.

The overwhelming consensus among Which? members underscores the cons-ciousness of a need for more oversight and higher professional standards within the industry. The IPA has been working on the same issue with its accreditation drive among agencies.

Anything that moves us further from double-glazing salesmen in the public mind is also a good thing.

 

 

Discussion

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