Platform11: Increasingly, the ASA and ITC seem to think we need protecting from our own fantasies. Oh really?

`It's got four wheels, some seats and it is painted in different colours. The new Fiesta from Ford - a car that keeps your feet firmly on the ground." It's a far cry from the dark, gleaming monster, clinging sensually to mountainous curves, taking corners in ways you know you would never dare. But if the advertising watchdogs have their way, this will be the shape of car ads to come. Where once there was aspirational machismo, now there is only enhanced crumple zones, anti-lock braking systems and passenger airbags.

The ITC's latest condemnation of ads for the Ford Fiesta, the Nissan Almera and the VW Passat - for placing undue emphasis on speed and acceleration - is typical of the killjoy, safety-obsessed outlook it shares with the Advertising Standards Authority. It is tempting to imagine that these censors of public taste are cardigan-wearing, Morris Minor drivers who spend their weekends jotting down the registration numbers of cars parked on pavements and reporting neighbours spotted using a hosepipe during a water shortage. But the growing anti-car and anti-consumption culture unites old fogies and young Swampys alike in the form of new Labour MPs.

The Nissan Almera spoof of the classically macho cop show The Sweeney was censured for encouraging an aggressive car culture. In its condemnation, the ITC reveals a distasteful mistrust of the consumer. What the ITC fails to appreciate is that while I might fantasise about screeching around corners and whooshing through storms with spray flying from my wheels, this bears no relation to my pretty common-sense driving habits that are fuelled more by a desire for self-preservation than for motoring glory. Perhaps "as a woman" I am less at risk of being brainwashed by the essentially "masculine" culture of power and speed. But I don't believe your average male has an inferior sense of road safety as a result either of testosterone or of a "socially constructed" masculine identity. The ASA itself admits that car accidents are declining year after year, but as the cautious Nineties refrain goes, "That is no cause for complacency."

It is not just car advertising that arouses concern in the ASA and the ITC. Adverts for hunting and fishing knives that "gratuitously" employ the use of exclamation marks in extolling the particular virtues of the tool or that otherwise display an unhealthy enthusiasm for the product they promote are discouraged by the ASA. Memorably, back in 1995, the ITC banned an ad for Dime chocolate bars because it showed the comedian Harry Enfield shovelling the confection into a supermarket trolley in a way that could incite gluttony. The notion of the individual ripe for tipping over the edge by irresponsible advertising is even evident in New Labour policy. Already since 1 May we have seen panics about alcopops and cigarette advertising become enshrined in policy. The view seems increasingly common that the potentially feckless consumer needs protecting from the persuasive powers of the market, and indeed, from his or her lack of self- control.

There is a chasm of difference between the ASA's motto, "Legal, Decent and Truthful" and its ever-growing code of practice that prohibits for example, the truthful representation of those Nineties pariah products, alcohol and cigarettes. It is forbidden to show people under the age of 25 drinking alcohol, even though it is obviously true that people of this age enjoy a drink and all but the most puritanical would say that to do so is perfectly legal and decent. It is not permitted to portray drink as the social lubricant it undoubtedly is, nor is it acceptable to show how alcohol can "remove inhibitions, resolve tension or soothe agitation". Few normal people would consider throwing a party without alcohol precisely because we recognise all of these qualities as useful, yet we cannot see our lifestyles reflected in the adverts we watch in case they encourage vulnerable individuals to drink at "unsafe levels". Obviously drunks who hang around outside the off-licence opposite my flat have seen one too many Bacardi adverts - either that or they are blindly pursuing the highly desirable "Tennent's Super" lifestyle.

The whole point of advertising is to encourage our aspirations and to package our dreams and fantasies into commodities. When the advertising industry itself, in the form of the ASA, begins to get cold feet about inspiring desires and encouraging us to buy things, it seems to me revealing of a new sense of the individual as someone who cannot be relied upon to act rationally in his or her own self-interest, who needs to be taught the value of self-restraint at every opportunity.

Jan Macvarish will be speaking at `Cut! Censorship and Self Censorship', a one-day symposium as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on Wednesday 20 August, Flodden Suite, Apex Hotel, Grassmarket, Edinburgh.

News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books'It's a simple, sweet and charming tale; it’s very heartfelt'
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game