Countdown to our 50th: 1964 – 1965
17 July 2012
The second of our Annual Reports covering 1 January 1964 - 31 March 1965 shows from the very start that the protection of children was at the heart of our work.
Though one statement in the report particularly grabbed our attention and begged the question: what were children’s nightdresses made of in the 1960’s?
• The Authority felt that there were cases in which the element of fear could play a proper part in advertising. Advertisements for fireproof material for children's nightdresses might have been such a case. The new clause now reads: "Advertisements should not without justifiable reason play on fear."
Of course, the Authority was addressing a serious matter that was causing much concern
in the early 60s, when companies started using ‘new’ fabrics like rayon to make night clothes and oil burners and open fires were commonplace in the home.
Continuing on the theme of protecting children, there was also the very sensible conclusion that some products in direct mailings were, perhaps, a bad idea:
• In the case of razor blades the distributors from the outset had been instructed only to leave a sample if it could be handed to an adult.
It is clear that the ‘prevention rather than cure’ approach to helping advertisers get it right was adopted early on:
• It [ASA] has welcomed the wide distribution by the Advertising Association and the CAP Committee of guidance leaflets, bulletins, rule sheets and advice to help advertisers, agencies and media to maintain high standards.
And media owners were already playing an important role in policing what appeared in their ad space:
• Checking classified advertisements is an even more formidable task... Newspaper staff develop a nose for suspicious copy, but again the odd "wrong-un" will slip through.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) was also undertaking its own monitoring exercises:
• By April experimental checks had been carried out on advertisements for slimming diets and treatments, hair treatments and clinics, and knitting and sewing machines.
Yet, early in its life the ASA was coming in for some criticism.
The report reveals that:
• Critics have continued to allege that the Authority is neither authoritative nor independent of control by advertising interests, which it is moreover accused of serving as a public relations facade.
• In a letter to The Times dated 13 July 1964, referring to a BBC programme 'Choice' of 5 June 1964, the Chairman rebutted allegations that the Authority was not an independent body. Indeed, as concerns the independence of the Authority, we have been frankly surprised and disappointed by the persistence of the few vocal critics who have continued to try to cast doubts upon it.
Over the years, the ASA system has altered its governance
structures to make sure that it is beyond doubt that its decision-making is independent of advertisers.
But despite some concerns from a vocal minority, the ASA was pleased to announce that its actions were largely successful and advertising was being kept under control:
• The Authority wishes to affirm, on the basis of its experience, its unanimous belief that advertising in this country is substantially clean.
• The Authority is happy to report that in the last 15 months it has encountered no instance of persistent defiance of its rulings or of the requirements of the Codes of Practice which would have called for public censure.
Finally, just two years into its tenure, the ASA was thinking about its future:
• Towards the end of 1964 the members of the Authority were addressing their minds to the future. The Authority’s financial endowment was guaranteed for only three years, terminating in August 1965 in the first instance, by which date it was necessary for a decision to be reached by the Advertising Association as to whether the Authority should continue to exist and, if so, for thought to be given to the terms of reference, composition, structure and financial arrangements.
The future? Tomorrow, we’ll look back at what happened next.
Read the 1964 – 1965 Annual report here