Friday, 28 January 2011

WARNING: Nuts - may contain nuts. Has marketing regulation gone nutty? CIM

The Chartered Institute of Marketing kicked off its centenary celebrations this week with a House of Commons debate on the motion 'A century of marketing legislation restricts everyone whilst protecting nobody'. Despite a strong case put forward for the motion, the audience voted overwhelmingly against. While marketers do find regulation cumbersome at times, it is clear that the industry is broadly in support of the last century of marketing legislation.

Alan Stevens, The Media Coach and President of the Global Speakers opened the debate speaking for the motion, noting that 61% of marketers think that the industry is over-regulated, and 94% expected this to get worse. He suggested that marketing legislation is ineffective, and that ‘rogue traders’ will find a way to get around it. Word of mouth, said Mr Stevens, is much more powerful:

“What people say, and which people say it, has a far greater impact than legislation. Take eggs for example, which have been regulated by the most stringent European law to ensure their safety since 1973. But when Edwina Currie asserted that most eggs contain salmonella, egg sales dropped by 60.”

Like his debating partner, Jeremy Jacobs, the award-winning speaker and presenter, also argued that marketing legislation had gone “beyond common sense”, using the archetypal example of packets of nuts carrying the warning “may contain nuts”. As one audience member pointed out, such legislation serves only to make them “feel stupid” and will in fact have a detrimental impact on their relationship with the brand in question.
However, the overwhelming consensus was that marketing legislation is, for the most part, flexible enough to overcome these difficulties. Brinsley Dresden, partner, Lewis Silkin Solicitors and global vice-president of the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance, pointed out that the marketing industry is mostly self-regulated and so requires a legal base to protect consumers and marketers alike:

“The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) exists on a legal platform, which is what gives it its teeth. The ASA is flexible enough to respond to the changing zeitgeist without prescriptive legislation,  but ultimately a legal backstop exists for the enforcement of its decisions. This system has worked and will continue to do so.”

Robert Opie, director, Museum of Brands agreed, further arguing that creativity is in fact protected by the legislative framework. Using the example of patents, he suggested that “brands need that [legal] protection; they have a tangible commercial value. Basically, if you don’t have the rule of law, as a brand, you are stuffed!”

Roderick Wilkes, chief executive, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, said:

“The Chartered Institute of Marketing is here to facilitate debate on issues that affect its members, and I was delighted that this sell-out event gave them the chance to do just that.”

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