Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 1976 – 77
20 August 2012
Our 14th Annual Report is a bumper edition, covering a 21-month period from March 1976 to December 1977. The wealth of activities going on within the ASA’s walls mirrored the busy period outside our offices, as Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Silver Jubilee, and Hay-on-Wye declared temporary independence from the UK, complete with a self-proclaimed ‘King of Hay’.
The big stories revolve around our growing relationship with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The report begins by noting that the OFT, on behalf of the Government, had undertaken a review (the results of which were to feature in future Annual Reports) of the effectiveness of the advertising campaigns the ASA had produced in order to make itself better known by the public, and more responsive to their opinions and views.
The European Commission also started work on a draft Directive on Misleading and Unfair Advertising during this year, which raised the potential for advertising standards to be set on a Community-wide basis for the first time. The ASA’s Chairman, Lord Thompson, wrote of his fears that such moves would tip the balance of the system too heavily in favour of statutory regulation, thus undermining the commitment of the industry to compliance – one of the key components of any self-regulatory system.
Our Annual Report also raised the possibility of a “long-stop” power of prosecution, over and above the sanctions that the ASA already had, for those advertisers who failed to comply with ASA sanctions. That notion of a statutory backstop for misleading advertising rests with the OFT today.
Former ASA Chairman Lord Drumalbyn, in his outgoing foreword, argued for the economic importance of the advertising sector, using words with relevance for our current times of austerity, arguing “Investment is meaningless, jobs are illusory unless there is a demand for the goods or services produced – unless people know about them and where they can be obtained.”
With those regulatory discussions taking place in the background, the ASA kept evolving with the times. One innovation that was introduced was the creation of a team of ASA ‘shoppers’ to monitor ‘free’ offers in supermarkets, to check compliance with the new Code of Sales Promotion Practice. The early results of this compliance work suggested it was an area that would require continued close monitoring.
And finally, the report notes that an addition to one of the rules corrected a previous glaring omission, namely that the new Code rules made clear that female smokers should not be suggested to be more charming, glamorous or independent than female non-smokers.
View the 1976-1977 Annual Report here.