Countdown to our 50th 1979
23 August 2012
1979 was a historic year for democracy, with Margaret Thatcher elected as the UK’s first female Prime Minister, and the first international elections ever held, with direct elections for MEPs in the European Parliament.
The year also marked the publication of the ASA’s 16th Annual Report, which revealed that in the five years since the ASA had begun advertising to make the public aware of the services it offered, more than £1 million had been spent on advertising, and around half that again had been donated by the media in free space.
In his foreword, the ASA Chairman paid homage to the poet Robert Southey by quoting from his poem “The Battle of Blenheim”, in his reflections on the European Union’s proposal for a Directive on Misleading and Unfair Advertising. Suffice to say, Lord Thomson felt that the time and resources spent on the Directive would far outweigh the benefits to be reaped by the legislation:
And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.
'But what good came of it at last?'
Quoth little Peterkin,
'Why that I cannot tell', said he
'But 'twas a famous victory.’
The Annual Report saw the ASA looking ahead to a new decade, and the challenges to come. We had initiated our first research project into the effects of advertising on women and children. 1979 marked the International Year of the Child, with the ASA recognising that much of the feedback we had previously received on the effect of advertising to children had come from adults. So, we undertook to find out children’s own views by conducting research with them.
33 years on, the ASA has just published some new research which also asked children about advertising to ensure that we are getting the right level of protection in the Codes for children.
1979 also marked the first full year of a new formal monitoring system, whereby each week a selection of publications – drawn from national dailies, national Sundays, consumer interest magazines and local newspapers - were scanned. Areas that drew particular attention from our monitoring team were ads featuring, or directed at, children, all ads for alcoholic drinks, and ads for double glazing. Where there were sector problems with compliance, the ASA produced updated guidance to ensure that advertisers better understood how to comply with the Code.
Meanwhile, the stats from 1979 reveal that the ASA received 3367 complaints, with fewer than 30% giving rise to an investigation under the Code. The Annual Report lists the reasons for complaints not being taken up, which include the fact that some matters raised were outside our remit, some complaints did not contain enough information to identify the ad, some complainants came to incorrect conclusions about ads because they failed to read them correctly, and in some cases, “lack of sense of humour – often married to an over-literal mind – has also been known to produce complaints which cannot be said to contravene the Code.”
View the 1979 Annual Report here.