Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 1974 – 75
10 August 2012
The year 1974, or MCMLXXIV to use its colloquial name, saw Abba win the Eurovision song contest with Waterloo and Muhammad Ali knock out George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.
The ASA’s 12th Annual Report also reveals it was the year that marked the creation of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (ASBOF) and the introduction of an advertising surcharge to fund the ASA of 0.1% on ads appearing in the press, magazines and other periodicals, and in direct mailings, the cinema, and outdoor media.
This boost in funding made it possible to upsize the ASA operation, growing its staff numbers from 9 to 26 to monitor the increasing numbers of complaints coming from members of the public.
The increase in funding also gave us the resources to extend our links with other consumer organisations, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux and the Women’s Institutes, to help ensure the highest level of protection for consumers.
The formation of the ASA Council was also altered. Previously, it had featured six industry members, six independent members and the independent Chairman. However, from 1974, at least one third but not more than half of the Council could be drawn from industry. Today, the Council make-up is two-thirds independent of industry, with one third having a recent or current knowledge of the advertising or media sectors.
Our 12th Annual Report also noted the publication of a study prepared by consumer associations for the European Bureau of Consumer Unions (BEUC). The BEUC report, entitled “A Study of Advertising in the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany” outlined the principles considered essential for effective supervisory control of advertising, as well as examining specific ASA cases to offer a separate view on whether or not the ad had breached the Code.
One of the ASA investigations examined by the BEUC report was an alcohol ad claiming that “Only the best wine and herbs” were used in vermouth. A complainant had suggested that it was generally known that fine wines were not used in vermouth, and that other ingredients besides wine and herbs were used. The copy was amended to read “Only carefully selected wines and herbs are good enough for the world's most beautiful drink” following ASA intervention. Our Annual Report acknowledged that in this case, beauty depended “on the palate of the imbiber—and not on our Code, nor the law of the land”, and the BEUC report endorsed our assessment of the misleadingness of the ad.
The ASA welcomed the BEUC report, while noting that two of its major recommendations for supervisory bodies in Europe had already been undertaken by the ASA.
The first of these, the introduction of a system of systematic monitoring, had been a function of the ASA since its beginnings, and the second of these, the imposition of pre-vetting in particularly sensitive areas, had been increasingly used by the ASA during recent years, with ads for slimming products required to be submitted for clearance following the introduction of the new slimming code in 1973. Health food products advertising in certain periodicals, and ads for hairpieces were also subject to pre-clearance.
In other advertising news of the year, the Advertising Association held a conference, which was addressed by the Rt Hon Shirley Williams MP (now Baroness), the then Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, and the Director-General of the Office of Fair Trading, Mr. John Methven. Both made clear that it wasn’t enough simply to have a good Code; for the Code to be effective, the public must be well informed about the ASA, so that they were empowered to complain about advertising – an issue that was addressed in the following year’s Annual Report.
View the 1974-1975 Annual Report here.