Whatever happened to the Advertising Standards Authority?
I’m sure the government had a law at some point that said you can’t advertise your product merely by calling someone else’s rubbish (somewhat hypocritical, considering this is the cornerstone of political campaigning). I only remember this because I had to do a tedius essay on the whole thing back in GCSE business studies.
Yet one look around and we’ve got Tesco ripping the piss out of Sainsburys / ASDA. All the telecommunications companies are grassing on BT. And don’t even get me started on Macs and PCs. PC doesn’t count as a brand? What, because Windows is so inside our lives now it’s considered the work of divine intervention? Don’t get me wrong, I dislike Microsoft as much as any other mentally healthy human being. My point is that this whiny mewling is not going to make me like you, it’s going to make me dispise you even more than them.
When the advertising business was in its infancy, it was all quite innocent. “Coca Cola”, the bottle might say. “A healthy, tasty beverage” or something similar beneath. Often even more apocryphal, yes, but sometimes even the doctors didn’t know better. There still wasn’t all the dirty tricks we have assailing us now. Today ads are chocked with subliminal messages, layered meanings, psychological traps and emotional & attention groping tactics. It’s always annoyed me. But they couldn’t dish dirt on each other like a couple of schoolboy electoral candidates, which made it all better because you knew they had limits. They played by some rules. Now it seems like that’s gradually been ignored and ultimately trampled, like some commercial Treaty of Versailles.
I thought I’d take a quick look on the ASA’s website at their advertisement code. Sure enough, there’s a pretty weak rule that states as follows:
Advertisements must not discredit or unfairly attack other products or services, advertisers or advertisements either directly or by implication”
– Source: ASA
Of course, the term “unfairly” is open to almost endless abuse, but I think the sentiment here is clearly “you can’t sell shit by slagging off everyone else”. But I think all the advertising agencies know that ASA is a pushover stepdad.
Perhaps it’s just because I’m in my cranky old twenty-fifth year of age, but I am getting rather sick of this bickering on the TV and the Web. So how about you big yourselves up instead of just putting everyone else down, hmn?