The Regulation of
Vance Packard's report, The Hidden Persuaders, appeared in 1957
there has been a lot of anxiety about the effects of advertising. Like
violence, advertising is supposed to have a particular effect on the
minds of younger and less educated audiences.
They Whine: How Corporations Prey on Our Children
Decent, Honest And Truthful
to monitor and control advertising a number of different regulatory
bodies have been established. Many countries have an Advertising Standards
Authority, whose job it is to listen to complaints from the public,
and establish whether or not a particular ad or campaign should be withdrawn.
In the UK the situation is complex, as each medium is governed by a
different regulatory body:
is regarded as a main centre for advertising in Asia, and agencies here
are increasingly offering their services in China. The Hong Kong government
is therefore anxious to promote the advertising industry as ethical,
and offering value for money. This
interesting report from the HK consumer council offers insights
into how the public perceive advertising, and the regulations they want
to apply in order to make it more legal, decent, honest and true.
bodies screen TV ads before they are submitted for broadcast, but print
advertising largely goes through unscreened. The ASA rely heavily on
complaints to spur them to take action against an individual ad, whilst
the ITC are more pre-emptive. The problem with this system is obvious:
the ASA only acts AFTER an ad has appeared, and AFTER a certain number
of people have complained about it. Therefore, by the time they rule
that an advertisement is offensive, or untruthful, the campaign may
well be over and the ads long gone. Also, an ad is an ad, and costs
money to place in a newspaper. However, news stories about that ad are
free, and will bring a brand to public notice. It is felt by many that
advertising agencies are increasingly willing to push the boundaries
of the code in order to grab audience attention through shock values.
companies have long acknowledged this, and have deliberately used controversial
campaigns. Benetton are perhaps the best known. Olivierio Toscani, the
mastermind behind the decade-long strategy, claims that their ads bring
humanitarian issues to the world's attention as well as selling clothing.
Luciano Benetton says he is "only interested in the world and people...if
I can make people more aware than that is all I offer". However,
the storm of protest (and subsequent boycott of Benetton clothing by
major US retailers) arising from the 2000 Death Row campaign was too
much for the clothing manufacturer to cope with, and Toscani left the
company. What do you think?
sells, sex sells easily and the whole question is if you don't want
to do quite as much sex, that means you're going to have to come up
with something else and that means you're going to have to be creative
and it's going to be a lot more work and it's going to be a little
bit more of a challenge in what's becoming an increasingly competitive
Golin, Brandweek Online, March 6 2000
It is a
truth universally acknowledged that Sex Sells. Ad agencies have been
utilising this principle for as long as they have been advertising,
successfully persuading the consumer that sexual attractiveness is a
benefit of a plethora of products and services, from the obvious (lipstick)
to the surreal (washing powder). Boy, do they earn those awards! Maslow
doesn't really cover it, but the need to be sexually desirable does
appear to be paramount in the world of women's magazines and certain
zones of TV advertising. The big question is, however, how much sex
sells, and how much offends and therefore alienates the consumer? Advertising
Standards Authorities, censors and, more importantly, big distributors
(such as Wal-Mart in the US) keep a supposedly tight rein on how much
advertising may utilise sex, but there are increasing doubts about their
effectiveness. As with violence, continued exposure to sexual imagery
desensitizes, and advertisers seek to gain attention for their products
by providing imagery that is continually more explicit. And, inevitably,
the very explixitness of these ads generates a great deal of free publicity.
clothing company, French Connection, has created headlines through its
use of the acronym FCUK - which it insists stands for French Connection
UK - which was used extensively on ad campaigns and in slogans on t-shirts.
While the public debate about obscenity rageed, their sales increased
dramatically. However, they are now under strict regulation from the
ASA in the UK and have to have their campaigns pre-screened.