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Advertising Association slams recent NGO healthcare lobbying

Chief executive Lefroy questions tactics of public health advocates

The UK's policy on lobbying by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) needs a radical rethink, according to the Advertising Association's (AA) chief executive Tim Lefroy.

In his comments at a Westminster Media forum keynote speech, which was made in the wake of two reports criticising advertising, Lefroy demanded closer scrutiny of NGO lobbying. 

“Advertising is a well-regulated activity that informs choice, forces competition, inspires innovation and makes markets efficient. If we're to put economic recovery, jobs and growth first, the focus must be on what advertising does for people – not an imagined agenda of what it does to them.

“In the past two weeks we have endured two reports from medics – one demanding total prohibition of alcohol advertising, the other a 9pm watershed for crisps and confectionery ads. Both represent a reckless approach where facts give way to rhetoric and ideology. It is time to seriously ask whether these groups need closer scrutiny.”

One of the recent reports Lefroy refers to is Measuring Up, issued on February, 18 by the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges which contains 10 recommendations for tackling the nation's obesity crisis. 

The AA disputes the report's demand for a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm stating it “takes no account of the available evidence, in particular Ofcom's own review which found that 'the effectiveness of TV advertising bans on food advertising in relation to obesity in other countries … is at best both unclear and contested'.”

The AA also says that the Measuring Up report failed to note that the Buckingham Review for Government states that: “Expert opinion is divided on this issue. Most experts agree that advertising does have some impact, but the evidence is that the impact is very small.”

The second report, Health First, was issued by the Alcohol Health Alliance (the campaign group initiated by the Royal College of Physicians) on March, 1.

The AA responded, saying: “The report states – completely falsely – that the evidence shows that exposure to advertising leads young people to drink at an earlier age and to drink more than they otherwise would.”

Lefroy's keynote speech at the Westminster Media forum also urged government and industry to take action to protect and develop the UK's global advantage in advertising, media and brands. 

“This is a wake-up call to business and policy-makers that advertising activity is a crucial, £100bn lever in the British economy. We need a step-change on policy thinking if that advantage is to be retained.”

The AA outlines three top-line requirements for retaining this market share:

• For agencies, production and UK advertising services defending and growing our acknowledged excellence in creativity and applied technology so that the UK retains its place as a pre-eminent global hub

• For advertisers – keeping the UK an attractive market where marketing, advertising and communications can continue to provide globally competitive returns on investment

• For media owners – making the UK creatively and commercially the best place to build and invest in advertising-funded content and services.

Lefroy was asked in an interview with Creative Brief last December how the AA itself engages government (domestically and at international level) to which Lefroy replied: “We must be evidence-based. When government is faced with pressure groups using rhetoric and hyperbole, we bring the facts to the table. When we do that with the full force of the media owners, brands and agencies behind us, we make a compelling case.”

8th March 2013

From: Marketing

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