A tobacco advertising ban, tougher consumer protection ... adland braces itself for a new government

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The Independent Online
Labour's stunning landslide will, no doubt, be incorporated into the showreel of BMP DDB, the leading London ad agency which created its posters and party election broadcasts. But not everyone in adland has been toasting Tony Blair's triumph at the polls.

The advertising industry in general is deeply alarmed by Labour's manifesto pledge to ban tobacco advertising. Their trade body, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, will be lobbying ferociously on this issue in coming months in both Whitehall and Brussels - a European directive is also threatening a ban.

The IPA's legal affairs director, Philip Circus, spent part of polling day with the Tobacco Manufacturers Association. "Unless we mobilise very swiftly, there's a very grave danger that tobacco ads could be illegal by Christmas," he says.

A former Conservative councillor and parliamentary candidate who resides in Weybridge, Surrey - one place on the political map which did not turn red - Mr Circus says he did not vote Tory this time.

"But the IPA is dead against a ban on tobacco advertising because we believe the evidence does not support a restriction of freedom of commercial speech," he says. "And what will be curtailed next - ads for alcohol or toys?"

Mr Circus was at the IPA at the tail-end of the last Labour government and remembers Roy Hattersley, then minister for prices and consumer protection, consulting the industry about major curtailments in advertising freedom.

"Mr Hattersley was convinced that advertising was the cause of negative things like a rise in materialism," he recalls. "The Blair administration looks less of a threat than the last Labour government, but there is a much greater risk of intervention rather than continuing self-regulation."

The devil is in the details, according to a report published on the eve of the election by Ogilvy & Mather. Simeon Duckworth, an economist at this leading international agency, warns in the latest issue of Campaign, adland's weekly bible: "Increasing regulation is undoubtedly an important issue for agencies and will remain the subject of much debate. But it is only one of several ways in which a Labour government will affect agencies." Duckworth forecasts that the Central Office of Information - which handles the Government's advertising - will prioritise education, training and financial services. But he doesn't see the Treasury sanctioning more spending in this sphere.

This O&M economist also expects the Blair government to hasten development of the information superhighway, principally by freeing BT to compete head-on with cable companies. An explosion of new media outlets will cause further fragmentation of audiences.

Duckworth also predicts that Labour's plans for more aggressive competition and consumer policy will further undermine the big established brands in their battle against look-alikes. As he expresses it: "It could yet prove to be a bumpy ride."

It has already proved to be so for M&C Saatchi, the ad agency which produced a series of ads for the Tories demonising Tony Blair. These posters were considered one of the biggest flops of the campaign, triggering a series of ferocious rows between Maurice Saatchi and the Tory chairman, Brian Mawhinney.

Speculation is strong that the Conservatives will split with the famous brothers who played such a prominent role in their four election triumphs. The Tories' humiliating defeat has already made them the subject of mocking by Saatchi & Saatchi, the eponymous agency the brothers broke away from.

It produced a mock poster on Friday featuring the outgoing PM holding his head in his hands. "John," it declared. "Look what happened when you changed advertising agencies"n RB