Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 1967 - 1968
23 July 2012
It was the year that Elvis married Priscilla, the BBC launched radio stations, 1, 2, 3 and 4 and Stalin’s daughter defected to the USA. It was also the year that the ASA marked its fifth anniversary. There was plenty to keep us busy, with the protection of children and deliberations on taste and decency issues sitting high on the agenda.
The ASA and the wider self-regulatory system has, over the last 50 years, proved adept at keeping pace with technological developments and new advertising techniques. This was illustrated quite nicely in 1967 when we outlined the challenges that colour advertisements could pose! As we breathlessly explained, colour ads are often prepared well in advance of publication and so alterations could not be made without “considerable expense and delay”. To circumvent this potential hurdle, we encouraged advertisers to seek copy approval:
“The Authority hopes that colour advertisements, particularly those involving comparisons, direct or indirect, with other products, will be referred for advice, and so avoid any need for more formal procedures.”
And this remains the case today - for colour ads and beyond. We encourage advertisers, agencies and media owners to seek Copy Advice
before publishing ads. This confidential, expert and free pre-publication service helps ensure ads adhere to the Code.
Back then we were having the age old debate about offence. What is and isn’t acceptable in ads? Where should the line be drawn? It appears that just five years into our tenure we had adopted a pragmatic approach to judging matters of taste and decency.
We noted that:
“In the permissive society of today the area of acceptability is rather wider than in former days, and it would be unrealistic to apply much higher standards to advertising than are generally accepted in editorial and other fields.”
We also referenced the commonsense views of The Committee on Consumer Protection (the "Molony Committee") on this matter.
"What strikes one person as a gross offence against good taste will seem to another unexceptionable, and to yet another as merely laughable… Advertising is no more than a single and perhaps superficial factor in any decline of public morality and taste. If there be such a decline, the root causes must be sought and the remedies applied much more deeply than by a mere tinkering with the form of advertisements."
But the most pressing issue was, as ever, protecting children. While we accepted, and continue to, that children are legitimate consumers and that it is not necessarily wrong that “advertisers should seek to interest them in goods, subject… to qualifications” our Annual Report outlines that we were quick to respond to parental concerns about ads targeted at or addressed to children.
“The Authority considers that it is most undesirable for children to be invited by post to engage in any transaction which involves a continuing commitment, except with the written consent of their parents or guardians”.
Finally, the report also touched upon our ongoing concerns about a tit-for-tat approach to competitive advertising claims and complaints between competitors. Sensibly, we opined that “good advertising should be positive and constructive, rather than negative and destructive.”
We even went on to say: “Such brawling in public would, in the Authority's view, tend to lower advertising standards and could only be described as wholly unedifying. It would tend to bring not only advertising but our whole competitive system into disrepute.”
And this firmly remains our view today.
Read the 1967 – 1968 Annual report here