Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 1973 – 74
10 August 2012
The ASA’s 11th Annual Report covers the period 1973 – 74, which coincided with the release of Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon, and the eruption of the Watergate scandal in the US. Another notable historical moment was the appointment to the ASA Council of Baroness Phillips of Fulham, who was the first woman to serve as a Government whip in the House of Lords.
This year’s report could be considered to be one of the ASA’s most literary works, seemingly written by someone in the organisation with outstanding wordsmith skills, describing the work of the ASA and the CAP Committee as being carried out “in the half light where the eye of the law can see only dimly.”
But perhaps most poetically, the Annual Report describes the advantages of the system in the following way:
“Clearly the best football matches are not those where the whistle blows incessantly, and the maximum number of players are sent off the field. Rather they are those matches where the whistle is seldom heard and no-one is sent off, because of the presence of a referee who knows his job and is prepared to book anyone who breaks the rules, and both sides know it.”
We pay homage to the imagination of our regulatory forefathers.
Discussing the challenges facing the self-regulatory system, the Report decries the oversimplification of the issues, writing: “ideas of staggering superficiality are paraded as though they offer a key to a world in which advertisements have the logical consistency of Kant, the comprehensive capacity to inform of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the prose style of Hazlitt and the elegance and tasteful presentation of some amalgam of Raphael and Emily Post.”
Some of the highlighted cases included in this year’s Report were:
- A British Gas claim that there was “no danger of running out of fuel” was subject to a complaint that it was false, in view of a likely upcoming gasworkers’ strike.
- An ad for Shandy with a headline “It lets the kids drink like their dads” appeared in the trade press, which was okay in 1974, but would have breached the rules if reprinted in consumer publications. A good example of where standards have changed, since that would be a straightforward breach of the Codes today.
- A complaint by the Chief Public Health Inspector about a leaflet extolling the curative properties of goats’ milk, produced by The British Goat Society, was resolved by an assurance that the leaflet would not be reproduced.
In addition to the publication of the findings of ASA investigations, the ASA also published reports into issues of consumer concern, which in 1973 – 74 included "instant antiques", hearing aids, and the practice of unnecessarily quoting prices exclusive of VAT.
Back in the present day, we are still working to make sure that consumers are not misled by ensuring that advertisers display their prices as VAT-inclusive where appropriate.
Read the 1973 - 1974 Annual report here.