Claire Beale on Advertising: ‘Advertisers have had a stay of execution’

Spotted: a silver lining. Only sterling silver, but a lining nonetheless. And for once adland has the Government to thank.

We might be hurtling towards the worst recession in adland’s living memory, but there’s a new upside. The Labour party is now promising the ad industry a little TLC.

Not before time. After years as whipping boy in the battle for popular votes, the ad industry has won a reprieve. It turns out that all those pernicious curbs on advertising freedoms – those regulations on advertising naughty food and drink, the threats to car ads or marketing toys – might not be good for the economy. And we need to be good to the economy now, or it will be very bad to us.

No-one at the sharp end of advertising and marketing, will be surprised by the news that restricting ads will have a knock on effect on the health of the country. It’s obvious to anyone without a cause to grind. If brands don’t (or can’t) advertise, sales could be hit, revenue could slide, profits could plummet, jobs could go. Recession might come harder, faster and for longer. And all because advertising has been fingered for something it didn’t really do, like cause obesity or binge drinking. In fact, if you cut advertising because you hold it responsible for deep-rooted social problems like this, you might just end up fuelling an economic crisis that exacerbates them.

The ad industry has long argued that clipping its wings would retard growth. So the continuing threat of a pre-9pm ban on the television advertising of so-called junk food and drink could cost the food and drinks industries as much as £200 million; a similar ban on booze would cost north of £100 million. Both could cost the country at large significantly more. It’s a brave politician that ignores such a risk in the teeth of downturn.

Yet as recently as last month there were fresh threats from the Government that it could impose curbs on junk food advertising in the press, in cinemas and on the radio and web. And the threats came despite a study from the Department of Health, conducted by the media monitors Ebiquity, that showed child-themed advertising across all media had fallen from £103 million in 2003 to £61 million in 2007. Such declines in spend will have affected the manufacturers, and the advertising and media industries alike.

Then last week it emerged the Government had quietly admitted that further restrictions on advertising freedoms could drag down plans to buoy the economy, which will be announced in the Pre-Budget Report later today. It seems that recession has given the Government license to reject demands for tighter ad rules – at least for the moment.

The news is a relief, but the battle is far from won. And Labour’s newfound concern for the ad industry will have won it fresh support because, just as ministers were whispering about the need to protect advertising, the Tories were calling for more money to be pulled from the market.

David Cameron reckons the Government should slash its own ad budgets and use the money to supplement taxes such as council tax. The Central Office of Information, which manages the Government’s ad expenditure, is one of the country’s biggest advertisers and its £400 million ad purse is a lifeblood for agencies and the media. Plans to chop that will have a direct impact on the fortunes of some of the industry’s biggest players. Hopefully the Labour Party can resist such pressure.

So the ad industry is set to be granted a stay of execution, the chance to focus on survival without the imminent threat of tighter controls. But, really, there’s no time to relax; there’s no doubt that this is merely a temporary reprieve.

Top of the agenda must be to find a first-rate replacement for the out-going chief executive of the Advertising Association, Peta Buscombe, who’s off to head the Press Complaints Commission. Buscombe has done a fantastic job fighting advertising’s corner, but the battle’s very far from won.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own