Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 1998-99
15 September 2012
The year 1999 saw our European friends launch the Euro, the Millennium Dome open in Greenwich, and Boris Yeltsin resign as President of Russia. While the world waited to see how these momentous developments would unfold and what the next millennium might bring, the ASA was busy regulating advertising and marking the introduction of the 10th edition of the CAP Code.
It seems that some of the political dynamism of the year rubbed off on our ASA Director General, who was described by the Chairman as being “like a tiger” in defending the ASA from any encroachment on its jurisdiction. Emboldened by this new animal spirit and confidence in its role in society, the ASA managed to remove one particularly difficult thorn from its side in the removal of political advertising from its remit. Our Chairman welcomed the decision, noting that:
“The free-flow of argument in the cut-and-thrust of open debate is the best antidote to political advertising that misleads or offends.”
To this day, his words remain true and the exclusion of political advertising from the ASA’s remit has, and does, remain.
It seems that the impending new millennium also made the ASA Annual Report more philosophical in its musings, with our Chairman Lord Rodgers writing:
“The life and behaviour of institutions cannot be understood only through organisation charts. They function according to conventions as well as rules, drawing on collective experience in pursuit of common goals. This is true of Parliament and it is true of self-regulation in non-broadcast advertising. The system works not only because of checks-and-balances but through mutual respect and shared objectives.”
Very wise words indeed. In that spirit, the ASA introduced a new independent review process, and a new Independent Reviewer in Sir John Caines, to ensure that consumers and advertisers could be confident that their appeals of Council decisions were given a fair hearing.
The day job in 1999, however, became far more risqué. The top ten most complained about ads of the year demonstrated that advertisers had one thing on their minds: sex. The most complained about ad was for an online book retailer who featured a naked couple embracing in a rather suggestive position while reading the latest blockbusters (see the Annual Report for the other most complained about ads of the year). The ASA did not uphold the complaints and didn’t think the ad would cause offence. We presume that if the ad appeared today it would not only likely be unable to appear in outdoor advertising, but would instead simply show someone reading 50 Shades of Grey.
Read the 1999 Annual Report here