Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 1980
23 August 2012
Dust down your luminous socks, don your neon headband and wash your ear muffs – it’s 1980. This was the year that saw civil unrest and protest with strikes by steel workers; terrorism and heroism as the SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy building, killing five out of six terrorists and freeing all the hostages; and pockets being collectively squeezed as inflation rose to an eye watering 21.8%.
While things were less dramatic on the regulatory front, we nevertheless had plenty to reflect on. Our latest Annual Report outlined the success of another periodic ad campaign designed to “disseminate greater understanding of the work of the Authority”. The ad campaign strapline ran "If an advertisement is wrong, we're here to put it right”.
The campaign was clearly a success in raising our profile. We reported that we’d received a total of 6,533 complaints, the highest number ever received and a 94% increase over 1979.
We were, as ever, keen to keep our finger on the public pulse in order to help us judge where the line should be drawn when judging matters of harm and offence. In 1980 we undertook research, to be published the following year, about the attitudes towards the use of women in advertising prevalent among women in the population at large.
We also published our research into children's reactions to advertisements "Children and Advertising: An investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority". It contained interesting parallels with our most recent research into harm and offence
Our 1980 research highlighted how children are “not naive about advertisements; they rapidly recognise one when they see it and understand its motivation” but that they didn’t always approve of material more suitable for an adult audience:
“Children can quite strongly disapprove of "questionable" subject matter in an advertisement while admitting it intrigues them ("It's revolting and nasty, but I feel like seeing it", confessed one boy of an advertisement for an "X" rated film).”
Echoing this, our most recent research published in July 2012, reveals that 30% of children aged 11-16 surveyed said they had been bothered by an ad in the last 12 months. Sexual, violent and scary content were their main reasons. Many children viewed sexual content and nudity as funny or inappropriate for children younger than them, and those who said they were bothered tended to be embarrassed rather than confused or upset. However, some younger children admitted that they did not always understand what was going on in these adverts.
The 1980 research was available for purchase, while nowadays this kind of resource is free via our website. We’re not sure whether the report was gold leafed or leather-bound and came in a rich mahogany presentation case, but it cost £35. Now, this may have something to do with the spiralling inflation at the time, but by our calculations that’s a hefty sum even by modern day standards.
Perhaps equally curious is the fact that the production of the much vaunted “16mm colour sound film describing the work of the ASA” (Running time approximately 20 minutes, available on free loan from Viscom Audio Visual library), was in great demand.
Indeed, not only did you have to fill out an application form to obtain a copy:
“Applications for the film should be made direct to Viscom. "A Question of Standards" is also available from Viscom on Sony and Phillips video cassettes.”
It sounds as though people were practically queuing up for this televisual masterpiece:
“Despatches in the year were 398 with a viewing audience of over 25,000.”
Moreover, spare a thought for school children at the time:
“Preserving the spirit of economy, one school showed the film five times over two days.”
In other news, we reported that ‘ASA evenings’, a programme of presentations, lectures and talks with consumer groups, ad industry and trade associations, were proving a success. We also illustrated that our ‘Monthly Case Report Editorials’ were well received and provided a timely update on our work.
Our favourite entry in 1980 is taken from Editorial No. 67 which:
“Deplored the sometimes rash claims which nurserymen make about their plants and also considered the problems surrounding the advertising of stamps ("What is a stamp?" it asked).”
We don’t know if the stamp question was ever resolved. Answers on a postcard…
Lastly, we also picked up on a shift in the kinds of film ads that CAP was called to check copy for, noting that:
“A trend has been noted in the year in the type of 'X' film advertising submitted. This is due to the swing away from sex films to those depicting violence.”
Presumably no pun was intended.
Read the 1980 Annual report here