Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 2007
24 September 2012
Contentious it may have been, but in 2007 many were able to breathe a sigh of relief following the ban on smoking in all enclosed public places in England. It was also the year that ‘digital’ entered the national consciousness, if not comprehension, as the UK switchover to digital terrestrial television began.
At the ASA we were trying to catch our breath having dealt with all manner of high profile issues and regulatory developments that impacted on our work. Indeed it is probably safe to describe 2007 as eclectic. As our Chairman, Lord Smith reflected on his first year in charge, issues as diverse as depictions of violence in ads, food and soft drink, alcohol and gambling advertising as well as environmental claims were all on our agenda.
A big increase in complaints about violence in ads prompted us to hold a public seminar in Nottingham to test public attitudes towards the portrayal of violence and the use of guns and knives. We also reported a dramatic increase in complaints about environmental claims in ads. As companies vied for the increasingly eco-conscious consumer so the number of ‘green’ or, as those that were found to be misleading came to be known, ‘greenwash’ claims became increasingly prevalent.
It was also the year that debates about the use of false-eyelashes in ads became something of a national talking point. The ASA published two high profile rulings involving ads by cosmetic giants L’Oreal and Rimmel that misleadingly exaggerated the effects of mascara. No doubt media and public interest was sparked because our rulings are a scintillating read and not because the ads in question featured the actress Penelope Cruz and model Kate Moss. One thing we can be certain of is that following our decisions all beauty advertisers were required to include disclaimers in ads stating if false lashes were used.
New rules surrounding food ads came into effect in response to public concern about the nation’s ever expanding waistline and an increase in childhood obesity. Our ‘hot topic’ on this subject provides context to why the rules were tightened. 2007 also saw the introduction of strict new gambling rules following a change in law that permitted betting and gaming companies to advertise across media. Our gambling ‘hot topic’ explains in more detail.
Ensuring that the recently strengthened alcohol rules were effective, the ASA and Ofcom published the second part of an independent research study assessing the impact of the changes to the rules on the appeal of alcohol ads to young people. Overall the findings were positive with fewer young people likely to consider that alcohol ads were aimed at them.
And, because there wasn’t enough going on, we found ourselves being challenged in the High Court by a debt management service, Debt Free Direct who obtained an interim injunction to prevent the publication of an ASA ruling against their ad. Applying for a judicial review, Debt Free Direct saw its appeal dismissed by Mr Justice Sullivan who ruled that “it would require the most compelling reasons to prevent a body such as the ASA from publishing its adjudications which are in the public interest”.
All of which left ASA staff feeling in need of a cigarette, but that wasn’t allowed anymore.
Read our 2007 Annual Report here.